Causes of Eczema
Eczema is not a disease or an allergy. Rather, it’s an “immune vulnerability” that typically appears with other so-called allergic-type immune reactions like hay fever or asthma. This has only been understood recently, but now scientists have identified approximately twenty genes that control how the skin interacts with the environment. If these genes are normal, the skin will act as a natural barrier to irritants and infectious agents. But in eczema sufferers, these genes have developed abnormally, and the skin’s barrier, or stratum corneum, function fails, allowing irritants to pass through to underlying tissues. The irritants trigger an immune response - the itchy rash that characterizes eczema (a.k.a. “atopic dermatitis”).
There is also some new evidence that the class of disorders that includes eczema and asthma are the result of growing up in an environment that is devoid of the natural, “lesser” contaminants we were all exposed to when we lived in closer contact with the natural world. This article discusses some fascinating research showing that growing up on a farm can actually reduce the chances of getting eczema and asthma later in life.
For those of us in the here and now, though, eczema can be a debilitating condition. When flareups happen, it can be a real challenge just to get through the day. Things that non-eczema sufferers never pay particular attention to - bathing, clothes, common pollutants, even food or laundry ingredients - are for the eczema sufferer a constant source of irritation and worry.
Worst of all, many of the medications that are prescribed for eczema either do not work at all or work only sporadically. Today I’m going to try to offer some compelling reasons to get rid of your eczema medication entirely. Of course, severe eczema can be a serious condition, and the advice in this article is meant only as opinion and suggestions based on that opinion. It should not replace the advice of a physician. It is always important to consult your physician before making major changes to your eczema regimen.
With that said, here are 6 reasons you may want to throw out your eczema medication.
1. Enough side effects to make your head spin
Eczema is typically treated with corticosteroid ointments, creams, or lotions. These do not cure eczema (nothing does), but they can be effective in controlling or suppressing symptoms in some cases. However, these medications are an area of serious debate, mostly because regular, long-term use of them is associated with a number of dangerous complications.
For mild to moderate eczema, a weak steroid such as hydrocortisone is usually recommended. In more severe cases, a higher-potency steriod like fluocinonide may be used. In very severe cases, oral or intravenous corticosteroids (prednisone, triamcinolone) are prescribed. This last group can be very effective, generally bringing about substantial improvements very rapidly. The problem is that they can’t be taken long-term because of the risk of serious side effects. And when you stop taking them, the eczema often returns to its previous level. And unfortunately, not all of these treatments offer quick relief. It can sometimes be weeks before a patient sees significant results.
But the side effects of corticosteroids are not limited to the ones that are administered internally. Studies have shown that long-term use of even over the counter cortisone creams can result in some side effects ranging from mild to life-threatening and/or life-altering. The following list is not comprehensive, but mentions the most common side effects. All of these are much more of a concern when treating children.
Skin rashes and irritation
Formation of dilated blood vessels
Thinning of the skin which can lead to atrophy, infection, and increased susceptibility to fungi and bacterial infection, all of which can make eczema symptoms worse (a vicious cycle)
Nausea and vomiting (with oral GCS therapy)
Peptic ulcers (in patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications along with corticosteroids, as well as those with past histories of peptic ulcer disease, smoking, or alcohol use)
Weight gain due to increased appetite and fluid retention
Impaired glucose tolerance (a.k.a. “insulin resistance,” which is a pre-diabetic state)
Cataracts (high GCS dosages and long-term topical therapy applied around the eyes)
Glaucoma, (if GCS treatment is applied topically around the eyes or administered systemically, especially when patients are already at high risk for glaucoma
Impaired adrenal function
Growth retardation (a side effect that occurs especially with long-term, systemic administration of corticosteroids before age two or at puberty
Osteoporosis (especially in women who take daily long-term prednisone therapy)
2. It’s all about hydration
There are a million theories out there about what to do to help control eczema, but when it comes down to it, controlling eczema is all about keeping your skin adequately hydrated. Even the extreme end of the spectrum, which says to literally do nothing qualifies the statement by adding that you should keep your skin adequately hydrated.
This idea is echoed by Dr. Adnan Nasir, whose book Eczema-Free for Life is one of the few book-length studies on eczema written for the layperson. “Errors in bathing and moisturizing,” writes Nasir, “are THE major cause of persistent eczema.” “Errors in bathing” - now that’s not so hard to understand. Most soaps are drying and alkaline, a dangerous combination for eczema sufferers, since they strip away natural oils and wreck the Ph balance of the skin, making it far more susceptible to a number of skin conditions.
Further, detergents made from petrochemicals (which can be found in soaps and facial cleansers, as well as tissues) cause permeability of skin membranes, which makes it even easier for contaminants to enter the skin and cause eczema flares. Also, keep in mind that the terms “hypoallergenic” and “doctor tested” are not regulated, and no research has been done showing that products labeled “hypoallergenic” are in fact less problematic than any others.
Add to that overly hot water and long bathing times, and the stage is set for eczema. To keep eczema at bay, Dr. Nasir recommends relatively brief lukewarm oatmeal baths, followed immediately by moisturizing. But “errors in moisturizing”? What could that possibly mean? Well, Awakening’s products are formulated using the Mineral Hydration Factor(tm), a unique method of transporting moisture to skin cells through potassium and magnesium, which are two of the skin’s essential building blocks. Moisturizing does NOT just mean slathering on greasy skin care products. It means giving the skin what it actually needs to stay hydrated, and that very thing is the foundation of our products. In fact, many people who have suffered for years from eczema (or whose children have) have been literally stunned at how much of a difference using a product that actually hydrates your skin can make.
Here’s part of a letter we got from one of our customers recently:
I have always been of the assumption that all hand creams are about the same. Until one day I walked in to our local tack shop and stopped to read the label of Awakening Hands. Since I was almost out of the hand cream in my purse decided to give it a try. That night [my husband] tried it on our son who has eczema. We have tried several products including very expensive prescription creams. To our surprise in only a couple of days the eczema had completely disappeared!” — Diane Hogan
Beyond the hydration of your skin, there are also the natural healing properties of Dead Sea minerals, which are abundantly found in all our products. The Dead Sea has long been a destination for eczema sufferers, because the unique combination of minerals in the water and mud have an uncanny ability to soothe and heal difficult skin conditions.
Interestingly, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, eczema is a dry, heat and blood condition. Minerals and clay help cleanse the blood, moisturize, and have anti-inflammatory/cooling effects.
By simply changing your bathing practices and hydrating your skin properly, you will reduce your chances of eczema flares dramatically.
3. Medications Lose Their Effectiveness Over Time
Tachyphylaxis, or a decreasing response to corticosteroids, can occur with long-term therapy. Topical hydrocortisone cream thus loses its effectiveness over time. And of course, if treatment is stopped entirely, eczema tends to return to the level of severity experienced before starting the medication.
4. Immune Suppression
Currently, all the corticosteroids carry warnings that systemic absorption can cause suppression of the adrenals and other glands of the endocrine system. Suppression of adrenaline may lead to Cushing’s syndrome, hyperglycemia and glucosuria (a condition where elevated glucose is present in the urine, causing the kidneys to excrete more than normal).
Then there are “topical immunomodulators,” a non-steroidal class of drug that works by inhibiting the immune reactions of the skin. Well-known brand names are Elidel and Protopic. The FDA has issued a public health advisory about the possible risk of lymph node or skin cancer from use of these products. In addition to cancer risk, there are other potential side effects with this class of drugs. Adverse reactions including severe flushing, photosensitive reactivity and possible drug interaction in patients who consume even small amounts of alcohol.
5. You may be triggering eczema without even knowing it
According to Dr. Nasir, “both prescription and over the counter medications have been known to trigger itching.” The manufacturers of such medications are required to report this in the literature that comes with them, but have you ever actually read that stuff? The print is microscopic and goes on and on for pages. But if you suffer from eczema, you MUST read the fine print in detail. Some typical medications that can either cause or worsen the itching from eczema are pain medications that are opiate-based - such as codeine and morphine; erythromycin and other antibiotics; and even seemingly innocuous supplements such as vitamin B complex.
Dr. Nasir relates a story about one of his patients who was experiencing abnormally difficult eczema symptoms during her pregnancy. He suggested that she switch to a dye-free prenatal vitamin and her itching improved immediately. The point is, many people are suffering from eczema, seeing either inconsistent or poor results from their medication, while all along they’re “feeding the fire” so to speak, by consuming ingredients that trigger their condition. A thorough housecleaning, in which you examine all the things you’re eating and drinking and carefully eliminate suspected trigger ingredients, can be enormously helpful in controlling eczema flare-ups.
6. Your home may be contributing to your eczema
Eczema is often made worse by environmental factors that are “normal” but extremely hard on people with eczema. Consider the following factors and make adjustments wherever possible.
Over the last 50 years, pollen sources have increased dramatically. This is partly due to the fact that there is now a much higher percentage of male plants than female plants. If you have a decorative garden, it is likely that most of the plants are male. Male plants release pollen into the air, which should be filtered by the flowers of the female of the same species. Try to find the female version of the plants you have to lower the amount of pollen you’re exposed to.
Do you live near factories, freeways, or other big sources of pollution? Pollen mixes with pollution and creates a potent combination that will make your eczema even worse.
Try to get rid of insects, but be sure to keep the good ones around: ladybugs, dragonflies, spiders and others eat the kind of insects that can bother your skin. (Be nice to bees, too; just stay clear of their stingers).
Inside your home, keep surfaces dust-free and dry. Leaky damp basements are a breeding ground for mold, which can greatly increase your reactiveness. Also investigate the kinds of chemical solvents and additives that may be in carpets, insulation and other building materials. The more non-absorbent building materials, the better.
Try to keep the air in your home relatively cool: 65 degrees or less. Also use an air cleaner to filter out harmful elements in the air such as dust mites, mold and other contaminants. Also use hypoallergenic, densely woven sheets and pillow cases to prevent contact with dust mites when you’re sleeping.
Wrapping Up: Mineral Options
Eczema isn’t pleasant, but there are indeed steps that you can take to feel and look better. All of us here at Awakening Skin Care are working to lend a hand. As the testimonial above makes clear, Dead Sea Mineral skin care products, when used in conjunction with other, can be a powerful alternative to pharmaceutical eczema medications. We guarantee that our products are the best of their kind you’ve ever tried, or your money back. Click on the image below to find relief today!