2 Real-Life Stories of People with Different Eczema Types

Discovering different eczema types can help with symptoms management. In this article, two individuals share how they have managed their skin condition so far.

Woman scratching an itch on her left hand

A common condition that happens to both adults and children, eczema occurs due to triggers that cause itchy and inflamed skin. Different eczema types include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. Each of these types presents its own set of symptoms and may even appear in different parts of the body.

Learning from the Real-Life Experiences of Two People with Eczema

Woman applying lotion to her left underarm 
Rashes due to eczema can appear anywhere on the body.

A firm grasp of people’s experiences with eczema can help you manage your symptoms effectively. Here are real-life stories of people who have found ways to prevent a flare-up of this skin condition and live life to the fullest.

“I’ve been dealing with eczema since I was a child.” – Natasha  

34-year-old editor Natasha was four years old when she first started experiencing atopic dermatitis symptoms. During the early stages, a rash would appear on her legs and spread all over her body within a few days. However, since 2016, the rash has only appeared on her right leg and underarms.

“It always starts with itchiness, redness, and dry skin before bumps and thick, scaly patches appear. The bumps will leak fluid and crust over if I scratch them. The rashes are red, although they can turn brownish grey. Sometimes, they can be very painful,” recalls Natasha. 

To make matters worse, she was diagnosed with asthma and allergic rhinitis at an early age. The allergens that increase her risk of a reaction include dust, gluten, pollen, wind, seafood, animal fur, and fruits and vegetables that have sap. 

Over the years, she has visited a dermatologist and a general practitioner to treat her condition. Unfortunately, their prescription of antihistamines and corticosteroid cream did not offer significant improvements. Thus, she started making lifestyle changes that could help prevent a flare-up of her condition. 

For instance, she replaced her old cleaning and body care products with milder options. She moisturises her skin twice daily with a fragrance-free lotion. In addition, she applies aloe vera or tea tree oil on affected areas of her body. She also takes zinc supplements daily.

“My use of aged, traditional ointment triggered my eczema.” – Gabriella 

Gabriella was diagnosed with eczema after she immigrated to Europe ten years ago. She experiences eczema symptoms like scabby skin, a red rash, or intense itching. Rashes mostly appear on her legs and often get worse when left untreated. To alleviate the symptoms of her condition, Gabriella sought the help of a dermatologist.

Doctors prescribed antihistamines to relieve itchy skin and cortisone cream to treat rashes and scabby skin. They also suggested the use of body lotion to moisturise her extremely dry skin.

Likewise, she switched up her dietary and lifestyle habits to lower her risk of experiencing a flare-up. Primarily, she chose to limit her consumption of red meat and avoid dairy products like milk and cheese for approximately two months. She also increased her intake of green vegetables and a variety of nuts.

Eczema Triggers  

A display of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables
The consumption of anti-inflammatory foods can prevent an eczema flare-up.

From a clinical standpoint, eczema causes your immune system to overreact to the slightest irritation, causing inflammation. A history of the disease in your family or unhealthy skin due to genetic changes can make you susceptible to diverse types of eczema. Physical and emotional stress, as well as environmental irritants can also put you at risk.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), differential diagnoses for the symptoms of eczema will be grouped according to their specific syndromes before treatment recommendations are given. 

According to Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Kong Teck Chuan, eczema is closely linked to internal factors like pathogenic dampness, heat, and wind. “For TCM, the liver influences our mood and emotions. If liver qi (vital life energy) doesn’t flow well due to stress, it can lead to internal heat and wind which can manifest as itchiness and redness,” explains Physician Kong. 

Eczema also relates to an intrinsically sensitive body constitution that results from low immunity or a qi deficiency. Particularly, a person who has a weak body constitution — compromised spleen or digestive system function — will present with a spleen deficiency and dampness accumulation. Over time, poor blood circulation and qi movement, and an accumulation of waste metabolites will deprive the skin of nourishment and lead to itch and dryness.

Also, compromised spleen and gastric function as a result of binge-drinking or consuming seafood or spicy foods can also cause an internal build-up of damp-heat. When combined with external pathogens, it will manifest as damp-heat type eczema.

Managing Eczema Symptoms Effectively  

As Natasha and Gabriella exemplify, treating different eczema types requires a comprehensive approach beyond applying creams. Here are some remedies to help you relieve that uncomfortable eczema itch more effectively.

Healthy and nutritious diet 

Your diet plays a significant role in aggravating or suppressing inflammation in your body. Avoid milk and dairy products as well as fried, oily, or spicy foods. In TCM, these food types can increase the levels of dampness and heat in the body and obstruct qi flow. Instead, opt for anti-inflammatory foods like beans, fruits, lentils, and leafy, green vegetables.

“Those with weeping eczema types can try barley, cornsilk or winter melon soup. Those with spleen weakness and dampness must avoid cold foods and drinks to prevent dampness from accumulating in the body,” advises Physician Kong.

TCM herbs

Remedies like Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae (Tufuling, 土茯苓) can help with heatiness, while Kochia scoparia (L.) Schrad (Difuzi, 地肤子) is beneficial for calming dampness-heat itchiness. You can also consume bird’s nest for smooth and healthy skin. Tribulus (Baijili, (白蒺藜), Pseudolarix (Tujinpi, 土槿皮) and liquorice root (Gancao, 甘草) are traditionally used to reduce skin inflammation. Modern skincare products also incorporate the use of these products to relieve eczema, psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.

The efficacy of Tribulus in relieving eczema was studied in two randomised, placebo-controlled crossover trials in England. The primary aim of these trials was to learn the effects of standardised TCM herbs on eczema when taken orally. In one trial, Tribulus was used as part of a 10-herb mixture that was boiled and consumed daily. Participants of the study achieved a 90% reduction of symptoms without experiencing any adverse side effects. 

Poria (Fuling, 茯苓), coix seeds (Yiren, 薏苡仁) and liquorice root, on the other hand, can help to remove dampness by invigorating qi and the spleen. Studies have shown that coix seeds are beneficial for the digestive system as they can improve intestinal flora proportion. It has been indicated in the improvement of skin condition after daily consumption over 4 weeks. Human trials also suggest that coix seeds can promote the spontaneous regression of viral skin infections. 

Skincare routine 

Eczema flare-ups often come from irritated skin. Start using mild soaps or skincare products that aren’t abrasive. Look for products that are labelled “hypoallergenic”, “fragrance-free”, or “for sensitive skin”. Creams that contain ceramide — a class of fatty acids — can also restore your skin barrier. 

Moisturise your skin daily with a skin cream or an ointment. Do this several times a day, especially after you take a shower. Use lukewarm and not hot water when you shower. If your skin does flare up, you can choose to apply cortisone cream or ointment to control the itch and redness.

External applications that use ingredients like Pseudolarix kaempferi Gordon (Tujinpi) can also relieve itching and improve the severity of eczema symptoms by demonstrating anti-bacterial properties, and removing wind and dampness. Pseudolaric acid B — isolated from the extract of the root bark — can ease symptoms of the condition by halting the formation of new blood vessels in tumours (angiogenesis).

Meditation and breathing exercises 

Eczema can interfere with a person’s quality of sleep and normal day-to-day activities, leading to disorders like anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that meditation can potentially help reset overactive areas of the brain. Consequently, this will help minimise the release of inflammatory and stress hormones and thus, reduce itching. Similarly, gentle exercises like Taichi and Qigong can also help lessen stress and inflammation.

Addressing the symptoms of individual eczema types can help you treat this skin condition more effectively. Ultimately, our lifestyle choices play a primary role in managing different eczema types. Above all, it’s essential to consult a licensed practitioner beforehand for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Eczema.  [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  2. National Eczema Association. 2021. Can meditation help ease eczema itch?  [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  3. ResearchGate. 2017. Effects of the Fruit Extract of Tribulus terrestris on Skin Inflammation in Mice with Oxazolone-Induced Atopic Dermatitis through Regulation of Calcium Channels, Orai-1 and TRPV3, and Mast Cell Activation. [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  4. Department of Applied Thai Traditional Medicine. Anti-Allergic Activities of Smilax glabra Rhizome Extracts and Its Isolated Compounds. [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  5. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2020. Traditional Chinese medicine for food allergy and eczema. [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  6. US National Library of Medicine. Chapter 18: Herbal Treatment for Dermatologic Disorders. [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  7. ResearchGate. 2014. Alteration of intestinal flora by the intake of enzymatic degradation products of adlay (Coix lachryma-jobi L. var. ma-yuen Stapf) with improvement of skin condition. [Accessed 25 November 2021] 
  8. SAGE Journals. 2021. Coix Seed May Affect Human Immune Function. [Accessed 25 November 2021]
  9. The Health Board. What are the Medical Uses of Pseudolarix Amabilis?.  [Accessed 25 November 2021]

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