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ECZEMA

What You Need To Know
WHAT IS ECZEMA?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. 

It characterised by red, itchy, and inflamed skin. It is common in both children and adults and can vary in severity.

Eczema is often associated with other allergic conditions like asthma and hay fever. 

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT FOR ECZEMA

The conventional treatment for eczema typically involves a combination of the following approaches:

  • Topical Corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory creams or ointments that help reduce redness and itching. They are available in various strengths, depending on the severity of the eczema.

  • Topical Immunomodulators: These are non-steroidal creams that help suppress the immune response in the skin and reduce inflammation.

  • Moisturisers: Regularly applying moisturisers helps to keep the skin hydrated and prevent dryness, which can worsen eczema symptoms.

  • Antihistamines: Oral antihistamines can help relieve itching and improve sleep quality for individuals with eczema.

  • Antibiotics: If eczema becomes infected, topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection.

  • Wet Dressings: Wet dressings or wet wraps may be used to soothe and hydrate the skin in more severe cases of eczema.

  • Phototherapy: In some cases, controlled exposure to ultraviolet light (phototherapy) may be recommended to help improve eczema symptoms.

  • Systemic Medications: In severe or widespread cases of eczema, oral or injectable medications such as immunosuppressants or biologics may be prescribed.

It's important to note that individual responses to treatments can vary, and some may experience side effects from certain medications.

  • Long-term use of strong topical corticosteroids may lead to skin thinning, stretch marks, and easy bruising.

  • Topical immunomodulators like tacrolimus and pimecrolimus may slightly increase the risk of skin infections and, very rarely, skin cancer.

  • Systemic medications, such as oral corticosteroids or immunosuppressants, may have significant side effects like bone density loss, increased infection risk, high blood pressure, weight gain, and mood changes, so they are used cautiously in severe cases under medical supervision.

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SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
  • Itchy Skin: Intense itching is a hallmark symptom of eczema. The itching can be severe and often leads to scratching, which can further irritate the skin.

  • Red, Inflamed Skin: Eczema typically causes redness and inflammation in affected areas. The skin may appear swollen or raised.

  • Dry, Scaly Patches: The affected skin may become dry and scaly, leading to a rough or leathery texture.

  • Rash: Eczema often results in a rash that can be red or brownish-gray in color. The rash may be more pronounced in some areas, such as the inner elbows, behind the knees, neck, face, or wrists.

  • Blisters and Oozing: In some cases, eczema may lead to the development of small blisters that can ooze and crust over.

  • Skin Discoloration: Chronic eczema may cause areas of the skin to become darker or lighter than the surrounding skin.

  • Thickened Skin: Over time, the skin affected by eczema may become thickened and rough, especially in response to frequent scratching.

  • Skin Sensitivity: People with eczema often have sensitive skin, which can react to certain irritants or allergens, leading to flare-ups.

CONDITIONS COMMONLY MISDIAGNOSED FOR ECZEMA

Several skin conditions may mimic the appearance of eczema (atopic dermatitis). It is crucial to get a diagnosis and differentiate these conditions to provide appropriate treatment. Some conditions that can resemble eczema include:

  • Contact Dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction or irritation caused by contact with certain substances, such as soaps, detergents, cosmetics, or allergens like poison ivy. It can lead to red, itchy, and inflamed skin, similar to eczema.

  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition characterised by red, scaly patches on the skin. It may be mistaken for eczema due to its inflammatory nature and itchy appearance.

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that affects areas rich in sebaceous glands, such as the scalp, face, and chest. It can lead to red, greasy, and scaly patches, resembling eczema.

  • Nummular Eczema: Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema, appears as coin-shaped patches of red, itchy, and scaly skin. It can be mistaken for other types of eczema or other skin conditions.

  • Scabies: Scabies is a contagious skin infestation caused by tiny mites. It leads to intense itching and a rash that can resemble eczema, especially in the web spaces of the fingers, wrists, and other body parts.

  • Dyshidrotic Eczema: Dyshidrotic eczema primarily affects the hands and feet, causing small, itchy blisters. It can be confused with other blistering skin conditions.

  • Allergic Reactions: Allergic reactions to foods, medications, or insect stings can cause skin rashes that may resemble eczema.

  • Tinea Infections: Tinea infections, such as ringworm or athlete's foot, can lead to circular, red, and itchy patches that might be mistaken for eczema.

ECZEMA MORE PREVALENT WITH AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS

Individuals with eczema have an increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases or conditions due to a shared genetic predisposition and immune system dysregulation. Some studies suggest that certain autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and autoimmune thyroid diseases, may be more prevalent in individuals with eczema compared to the general population.

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ECZEMA AND INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY
(OR LEAKY GUT)

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition where the lining of the intestines becomes more porous, allowing substances like bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles to leak into the bloodstream. This can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation and potential health issues.

Research suggests that a leaky gut may contribute to the development or exacerbation of eczema. The idea is that when the gut barrier is compromised, harmful substances can escape into the bloodstream, leading to systemic inflammation. This inflammation may manifest as skin conditions like eczema in individuals who are genetically predisposed or susceptible. Several factors may play a role:

  • Food Sensitivities: A leaky gut can allow undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream, potentially triggering immune responses, including allergic reactions. Certain foods, when incompletely broken down, may exacerbate eczema symptoms in some individuals.

  • Microbiome Imbalance: A compromised gut barrier can impact the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. An imbalance in the gut microbiome may influence immune system function and contribute to inflammation.

  • Immune System Dysregulation: A leaky gut may lead to an overactive immune response, resulting in systemic inflammation and skin manifestations like eczema.

HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

A Functional Medicine Approach to Eczema

Our approach to eczema focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying factors contributing to the condition, rather than merely treating the symptoms. We understand that eczema can have multiple causes and involves various systems within the body. Here are the key principles of a functional medicine approach to eczema:

  • Personalised Assessment: We take a comprehensive and individualised approach to each patient. We consider factors such as medical history, lifestyle, diet, stress levels, environmental exposures, and genetic predispositions to understand the unique factors contributing to the eczema.

  • Identifying Triggers: We aim to identify and eliminate potential triggers that may be exacerbating eczema symptoms. These triggers can include allergens, food sensitivities, environmental toxins, and emotional stress.

  • Gut Health: Since there is a connection between gut health and eczema, we focus on optimizing the gut microbiome and addressing leaky gut, if present. This may involve dietary changes, probiotics, prebiotics, and other gut-supporting interventions.

  • Nutrition: We emphasise a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet that supports skin health and overall well-being. This may involve removing inflammatory foods, such as processed foods, refined sugars, and certain allergens, and incorporating more whole foods rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients.

  • Balancing Inflammation: We aim to address systemic inflammation, which can contribute to eczema flares. Lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and targeted supplements may help reduce inflammation levels.

  • Detoxification: Supporting the body's natural detoxification processes can be beneficial for individuals with eczema. This may involve minimising exposure to environmental toxins and supporting liver function through specific dietary and lifestyle changes.

  • Stress Management: Stress and emotional factors can influence eczema symptoms. We focus on stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation practices, to support overall well-being.

  • Supporting Immune Function: We aim to balance and modulate the immune system to reduce inflammatory responses and support the body's ability to heal.

To take a proactive role in managing your health, we encourage you to reach out to our team. We have extensive experience assisting individuals with conditions such as eczema, and our clinic director Muriel has personal experience supporting her young son who suffered with eczema from birth. She is delighted to share that he is now symptom free and thriving. 

We are dedicated to helping you improve your symptoms and overall well-being.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH US TODAY. 

 

 We offer a range of appointments in-person or online. You will receive the same service and expertise from us through our virtual, online clinic, just as you would if you visited us at our London clinic.

To discuss how we can assist you, call us on 020 3886 1339, or email us at  hello@autoimmunecliniclondon.com.

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