Eczema in Australia:
It is estimated that 1 in 3 Australian children and over 1 million Australians in total have eczema. In fact, Dermatologists have suggested that Australia has one of the highest incidences of eczema worldwide! In clinic it is one of the most common skin complaints we see, particularly in our paediatric patients.
Living with eczema, as a child or an adult can have a profoundly negative impact on day to day life. The affected areas of skin can be excessively itchy and can drive the sufferer to distraction. Severe itching, which can be especially common in the evening, can cause the subsequent problems of insomnia and chronic fatigue, both of which substantially affect sleep and in turn quality of life. Where excessive scratching of the skin causes bleeding, this can sometimes even lead to secondary infections.
Infantile eczema will generally occur in the first 6 months of life. This typically improves as the child ages and is often significantly better by the age of 5.
Childhood eczema may be the progression of Infantile eczema or can first occur between 2 and 4 years of age. Irritation is usually found in the ‘nooks and cranny’s’ places such as behind the knees, in the elbows, creases of the ankles, around the neck, behind the ears and in patches on the face. Childhood eczema once again often improves with age.
Young children will often experience some sort of skin complaint during childhood. Children with persistent eczema will often outgrow the skin complaint by puberty. Some do however carry on symptoms into adulthood where the body can be more resistant to treatment. As children are often highly responsive to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment, I always recommend treatment early is optimal. This way we can identify triggers and support the body to regain balance before they develop more ingrained patterns and the barriers to health that some adults can have.
Adult eczema can occur seemingly randomly. Sometimes after a life event or illness. Its placement is similar to that of children with the irritation mainly finding its way to the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees. It can be very red, inflamed, and itchy. It can result in a roughening of the skin and in some areas thickening.
This article will explore Eczema in detail, topics covered include:
· What is Eczema?
· How can Eczema present?
· Eczema Triggers
· Resolving imbalances that result in Eczema with TCM
· Traditional Chinese Medicine Dietary Therapy
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a term given to chronic inflammation of the skin and may itself cover a variety of skin complaints which can be quite unique to each individual. Clinical presentation of eczema can vary on markedly from one person to another. Some may experience oozing skin lesions whilst others may have raised red and dry sensitive areas. It can also vary on an individual occurring in different locations and with different appearances depending on age, stage or trigger of the complaint.
As the common name for a group of conditions, eczema may include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis.
How can Eczema present?
Dry, sensitive skin
Red, inflamed skin
Dark colouration to patches of skin
Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin
Oozing or crusting of the skin
Swelling / inflammation of the skin
A sufferer may experience all of the above symptoms or only some. It is common for eczema to fluctuate and for individuals to experience periods of remission and flares in symptoms. For some the tendency towards eczema may have been present from birth and for others it may have first occurred later in life, sometimes after an illness.
Eczema can be triggered by a variety of external and internal factors. It is quite common for an eczema sufferer to also have other allergy responses. Other allergies that go hand in hand with eczema are hay fever, asthma, food allergies and dust allergies. You can read more about Paediatric Asthma on our blog 'Does your child suffer from Asthma'
Common allergic triggers for eczema include
Pets / Pet Hair
Dietary allergic triggers for eczema include:
Finally, we do often also find that there is also a strong genetic component to the experience of eczema.
Resolving imbalances that result in Eczema with TCM:
As always TCM treatments aim to find the root cause of any disharmony. In the case of eczema and other skin disturbances we see these as a physical manifestation or symptom of an underlying imbalance. Common examples include:
Poor gut health:
Generally, these include signs of internal dampness which are most likely related to poor diet and over-consumption of sweet, oily, or processed foods. Our western diet full of dairy, carbohydrate and convenience foods is the main culprit here.
Weakness of Lung Qi:
In TCM Five Element Theory the lungs look after the health of the skin. As the health of one connects so closely with the other a patient with eczema is likely to also present with asthma and other associated Lung conditions due to this weak Lung Qi.
Deficiency in the Wei Qi:
The Wei Qi or defensive qi serves to protect us from virus, invading pathogens, and bacteria. It might be more well known as forming a crucial component of our ‘immune system’. A robust Wei Qi is dependent on strong Lung Qi and optimal digestive health. Deficiency of Wei Qi leaves the body weak to external pathogenic invasions and as such allergic triggers. Wei Qi is also connected to the lungs.
Eczema can present differently, and each presentation can reflect specific TCM patterns
Three common TCM presentations:
Wind: Wind-induced skin conditions tend to appear suddenly and have acute itching.
Heat: As the name suggests heat conditions physically manifested with red hot skin, a burning sensation, and swelling.
Damp: Skin irritation showing signs of damp can have a puffy and bloated appearance.