Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic, inflammatory skin disorder. Its main features are blisters that dry to become scaly, itchy rashes. The skin becomes dry and itchy because too much moisture is lost from its upper layer. This leaves the skin without protection, making it easy for bacteria and viruses to penetrate. The disease occurs episodically; in other words, there may be periods when symptoms are severe (flares) and times when there are no symptoms at all (remission). Eczema is not contagious, but nevertheless it is very common— estimates are that more than 15 million people in the United States have eczema. People with eczema often have a personal or family history of allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever. There is no cure, but treatments can reduce symptoms and help prevent outbreaks. Signs and symptoms include dry, extremely itchy skin, blisters with oozing and crusting, redness of the skin around the blisters raw areas of the skin from scratching which may even lead to bleeding, dry, leathery areas with more or less pigment than their normal skin tone (called lichenification). Eczema in children under 2 years old generally begins on the cheeks, elbows, or knees. In adults, it tends to be located on the inside surfaces of the knees and elbows. The cause of eczema is thought to be a combination of hereditary (genetic) and environmental factors. This means that factors such as allergies can cause eczema in susceptible people. Exposure to certain irritants and allergens in the environment can worsen symptoms as can dryness of the skin, exposure to water, temperature changes, and stress. Young age—infants and young children are most affected by eczema (about 65% of cases occur before age one, and approximately 90% occur before age 5). Stress can make eczema worse, irritants that may worsen eczema include: Wool or synthetic fibers, certain soaps and detergents as well as perfumes and some cosmetics, dust or sand cigarette smoke.
A naturopathic approach to treating someone with skin issues, regardless of the skin issue is usually very similar since we know that what is going on outside the skin is a direct reflection of what is going on inside the intestines. Therefore, although the exact protocol with certainly depend on the individual, a 4 ‘R’ gut restoration program as described in the gastrointestinal section is most commonly prescribed. Some skin conditions are more immune system realted like Impetigo and scleroderma in which case an approach similar to that in the autoimmune/infection section may be prescribed. Listed below are some specific details in regards to some of the more common skin issues I see at the clinic, however, this is by no means a complete list of all of the skin conditions I have seen people with.