Eczema / dermatitis
What is eczema?
Eczema (atopic dermatitis, dermatitis, skin inflammation) refers to a range of persistent inflammatory conditions of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). The Greek word eczema means "to boil over".
It is a modern degenerative disease that is affecting an increasing number of people, particularly in the last 50 years. About one in every nine people will suffer from eczema at some time in their lives.
It can occur at any age, but most cases seem to present in infancy, or among females during their reproductive years (15-49).
Eczema is more likely to be found on the flexor aspect of joints, in contrast to psoriasis which is usually on the extensor areas of skin. Psoriasis can also affect other parts of the body in addition to the skin.
Symptoms of eczema
- ***Primarily a dry skin with ongoing / recurring skin rashes.
- Redness or rashes.
- Itching. Scratching open a healing lesion may result in scarring and can enlarge the rash.
- Dry skin causing crusting, flaking or cracking.
- Blistering, oozing or bleeding.
- Areas of temporary skin discoloration or scarring.
- Edema (swelling).
Types of eczema / dermatitis
- Atopic eczema. Found in young children, an allergic disease that often runs in families whose members also have asthma. It presents as an itchy rash on the head and scalp, neck, inside of elbows, back of knees and buttocks.
- Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergen (such as poison ivy or nickel) or an irritant (often household chemicals like detergent, sodium lauryl sulphate, lime in wet cement). It is also a problem for some people who work with a variety of chemicals (occupational dermatitis).
- Xerotic eczema (winter itch) is a bad case of dry skin that gets itchy, tender and cracked. It mostly affects the limbs and trunk, is common in older people, and worsens in dry winter weather.
- Seborrhoeic dermatitis or Seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap in infants) is like a bad case of dandruff, with dry or greasy peeling and scaling of the scalp, eyebrows, face and sometimes trunk. In newborns it is sometimes caused by a lack of biotin.
- Venous eczema (varicose eczema) mostly occurs in people over the age of 50 with impaired circulation, varicose veins and edema. Typically it is located on the lower legs / ankles, with redness, scaling, darkening of the skin and itching. It can lead to leg ulcers.
- Dyshidrosis only occurs on the palms, soles, and sides of fingers and toes. Most common on the hands. Tiny opaque bumps form, with skin thickening and cracks. It is itchy, and gets worse at night. Typically worsens in warm weather.
- Discoid eczema occurs as round spots of oozing or dry rash, with clear boundaries, often on the lower legs. Its cause is unknown, and it tends to come and go, occurring mostly in winter.
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (Duhring's disease) causes intensely itchy and typically symmetrical rashes on the arms, thighs, knees, and back. It is linked to celiac disease, and can often be put into remission with appropriate diet. It tends to get worse at night.
- Neurodermatitis (scratch dermatitis) is a thick, scaly, itchy, pigmented eczema patch that results from habitual rubbing and scratching. Usually there is only one spot. Requires behaviour modification to cure.
- Perioral dermatitis is a condition related to acne vulgaris. Red papules (bumps) appear around the mouth, nose and eyes. It is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 45. It is usually caused by fluorides (particularly fluoridated toothpaste and fluoridated tap water) or skin irritation. Other causes include fungi and bacteria. Try not to touch, or use cosmetics, soaps, facial washes and steroid creams.
- Other types of eczema are caused by parasites, fungi, bacteria or viruses. Mite infestations are discussed separately on this website. The appearance varies depending on the cause. It always occurs some distance away from the original infection. This type of eczema is usually cured completely after the underlying infection is cleared up.
Causes of eczema
- Diet - high in processed food, sugars, grains, refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
- Loss of good bacteria on the skin, and in the digestive system (from antibiotics and excessive cleanliness). (1)
- Scratching, picking, touching.
- In some cases, micro-insects such as skin mites.
- Inflammation. Eczema is an inflammatory condition, and the key to curing it is finding the causes of inflammation in your case. Look for allergens and irritants - certain foods, additives, household chemicals, moulds, dusts, off-gassing of formaldehyde from furniture, fabrics, curtains, floorboards, particle board etc.
- Dry skin.
- Allergy. Eczema may be an allergic reaction to something on the skin, particularly the excrement of dust mites. Up to 5% of people with eczema show mite antibodies. (2)
- Celiac disease. Eczema occurs about three times more frequently in people with celiac disease, and about twice as frequently in relatives of people who have celiac disease.
Prevention / remedies / treatment for eczema
- Saturated fats.
- Probiotics. Probiotics such as a low-sugar water kefir may be applied to the skin, and taken internally.
- Alkaline diet.
- Try not to touch the eczema. Especially, do not pick or scratch!
- Moisturisers - see treatments for dry skin.
- Flowers of sulphur.
- See details of remedies recommended by Grow Youthful visitors, and their experience with them.
1. Bufford, JD; Gern JE.
The hygiene hypothesis revisited.
May 2005. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America 25 (2): 247-262.
2. Henszel L, Kuzna-Grygiel W. House dust mites in the etiology of allergic diseases (In Polish). 2006. Annales Academiae Medicae Stetinensis 52 (2): 123-7. Article