If It's Fall, This Must Be Eczema

Patient Expert

When I put on blush recently, I noticed a half inch patch of under-the-eye-eczema --a sure sign that the cold weather has begun. So when I got home that evening, even though it was late, I massaged in some olive oil.

Yes. Olive oil. On eczema.

What is eczema? According to Health Central: "Eczema (atopic dermatitis) in children is often a red, itching, oozing, crusting dermatitis that tends to be localized primarily on the face and scalp, although spots can appear at other sites. In older children and adults, eczema appears as a red, itchy rash, sometimes with a thickening or discoloration of the skin. From puberty on, it usually appears as dry, itchy patches in the folds of the elbows and knees. "

How common is eczema?
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists:
"The National Institutes of Health estimates that 15 million people in the United States have some form of eczema. About 10 percent to 20 percent of all infants have eczema; however, in nearly half of these children, the disease will improve greatly by the time they are between five and 15 years of age. Others will have some form of the disease throughout their lives."

What causes eczema?
From Health Central: "A person with eczema often has a history of allergic manifestations such as asthma or hay fever, or a family history of asthma, hay fever, or atopic dermatitis. Though much of atopic dermatitis is genetic and caused by the reactive immune system, eczema may be set off by extreme temperatures, stress, sweating, medication, clothing (especially wool or silk), grease, oils, soap and detergents, and environmental allergens. Dryness is perhaps the most important trigger. Drying soaps should be avoided, and the skin should be moisturized frequently."

How is eczema medically treated?

"Topical steroids may be prescribed to reduce skin inflammation during an eczema flare-up. Systemic corticosteroids are sometimes prescribed in very severe cases and usually under the direction of a dermatologist. Topical immunomodulators, like Elidel, are relatively new drugs available for use in treating atopic eczema. Antihistamines may be prescribed to control itching; these medications, however, cause drowsiness and do not clear up the eczema. Antibiotics may be given if there is sign of bacterial infection."

How do I treat it without corticosteroids?
These days, eczema is a minimal health issue for me and mainly due to the cold weather. Typically, the eczema on the tops of my hands during winter means dryness, cracking and bleeding. Eczema on my face is less extreme, more of a dry patch here and there that disallows the use of makeup because it's so dry and flaky.

I've been to many a dermatologist over the years and they have typically prescribed cortisone-based creams which cannot be used for too long as they thin the skin. No good. Add to that for me, those creams don't work. Sometimes they've exacerbated the issue. I've even tried the newest cream, Elidel to no avail, it didn't help.

Therefore, I've opted to go more natural with my eczema care. Often, if I can go "natural" with minor health issues I do. However, I am compliant when I need to take medication for more serious illnesses.

Below are the eczema relief suggestions from my acupuncturist Aimee E. Raupp, MS, Lac, who has eczema so she knows. As in all things,talk to your family doctor, dermatologist or personal acupuncturist if you have or believe you have eczema.

Aimee Raupp suggested the following:

--Applying olive oil to dry skin works.
--Sesame oil is better if the skin is red and dry.

--Coconut oil also works well.

--When the eczema is flared up, itchy and red, applying ground oatmeal (make a paste with water or one of the oils) really helps soothe the skin.

--Internally, be sure to take fish oil or cod liver oil. The essential fatty acids these contain are very important for reducing inflammation and keeping skin nourished. (Personally, this makes the biggest difference in my eczema.)

--Avoid sugary and yeasty foods (especially wine and beer), caffeine and anything processed as these are all inflammatory foods and can worsen the eczema.

Any of you getting eczema symptoms with the colder weather? How do you treat it successfully?