Eczema is a long-term skin disorder, which includes a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated skin. No matter which body part or the skin area is affected, eczema looks different for everyone. However, you can live a normal and healthy life with eczema if you avoid irritants and manage this condition with treatment. So, what are the symptoms of eczema and available treatment options?
Eczema is either mild, moderate, or severe and symptom severity varies from person to person. It is also not a contagious condition, so you can’t spread this disease to another person. The common eczema symptoms include:
- Atopic eczema causes dry, itchy skin and can even cause it to crack.
- For some, pain and soreness can prevail.
- Rash and red patches on the skin.
- Inflamed skin that can become red.
- Although this condition may affect any part of the body, it tends to affect the back of the hands, insides the elbows, backs of the knees and the face and scalp in children.
- People with atopic eczema frequently have periods when symptoms are mild or unnoticeable, as well as times when symptoms become more severe (flare-ups).
- There can be self-esteem issues, poor sleep patterns for children if itching or pain is present, and it can become worse at night due to the heat of bed linen, therefore disturbing sleep.
- While eczema will not directly kill you, it can lead on to infections as over scratching the affected area causes a bacterial infection. Left untreated the infection can become serious.
- It can spread around the body, and if severe enough, can scar the skin. These scars can fade with time, and many do, but some extensive scarring may not leave, and this can affect self-confidence for many people.
- Eczema should not prevent a person from doing the things they want in life, getting a tattoo, working, sports, wearing make-up, or whatever they want to do. However, it is probably not the best idea to get a tattoo during a flare-up of eczema and always seek medical advice if unsure.
Antihistamines block the effects of histamine (a substance in the blood that are chemicals that start the process of ridding the body of allergens). They help relieve itching associated with eczema, which can often be one of the most annoying symptoms.
Antihistamines can either be sedating, which cause drowsiness, or non-sedating. It is vital to be aware of the effects of a sedating antihistamine, follow the medicine’s instructions and the doctor’s advice.
The doctor may prescribe medicated bandages, clothing, or wet wraps to wear over areas of skin affected by eczema. They can be used over emollients or with topical corticosteroids to prevent scratching, allow the skin underneath to heal, and stop the skin from drying out.
Sometimes your doctor may refer you to a specialist in skin conditions called a dermatologist.
You may be referred if:
- a doctor is unsure what type of eczema you have
- your treatment is not controlling your eczema
- eczema is affecting your daily life
- it is not clear what is causing it
A dermatologist will carry out a full assessment and allergy testing along with reviewing your treatment. They may also look at medications and creams such as:
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors – various creams and ointments that suppress your immune system, such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus.
- Powerful topical corticosteroids.
- Immunosuppressant tablets – to suppress the immune system, such as ciclosporin, azathioprine and methotrexate.
- Alitretinoin – medicine to treat severe eczema affecting the hands in adults.
Another useful therapy might be:
- Phototherapy – ultraviolet (UV) light that reduces inflammation.
- A dermatologist may also refer you to a psychologist if you feel you need it.
Some people find complementary therapies such as herbal remedies but if you are thinking about using complementary medicine, speak to your doctor first to ensure the treatment is safe for you to use. Continue to use other treatments your doctor has prescribed.
The hemp plant has several phytochemicals that help it heal and soothe. The two chief ones, which have been studied the most, are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is what causes the ‘high’ or the psychoactive sensation amongst users. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t. In fact, CBD’s benefits are innumerable when compared to any trace THC it may harbour. Due to the wide spectrum of healing benefits, CBD can be recommended for a plethora of disorders, including eczema.
It is believed that CBD interacts in an intriguing way with the body’s natural pain receptors. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the part of the body that is responsible for the regulation of sleep and pain alongside appetite, mood, the immune system and many others. Neurological receptors that exist in the body respond in a unique way to CBD input and CBD has a unique way of indirectly interacting with said receptors. Specifically, there appear to be two certain receptors, mainly CB1 and CB2, that the CBD binds to and consequently provides pain relief, inflammation reduction and feelings of calmness.
Due to anti-inflammatory properties, CBD oil can activate anti-inflammatory reactions in cells, which may help to ease eczema flare-ups. CBD oil can also reduce itch and pain and improve natural elasticity and hydration in the skin. What’s more, since CBD also possesses antioxidant properties, it can be beneficial in preventing skin infection from eczema, which in turn helps to minimise the effects of the condition.
CBD is available in various formats with a different method of intake. Namely, they include: ingestible (ingesting edibles like CBD gummies or capsules), sublingual (consists of putting the product under your tongue for better absorption, such as CBD oil or a CBD lozenge), topical (applying directly on the skin, such as CBD creams and balms), and also through inhalation (such as inhaling vapour using a vaping device filled with CBD vape oil).