Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Eczema is more common than people realise, with the condition being found in 20% of all children in the UK and 1 in 12 adults. The condition, which makes the skin dry and inflamed, can lead to cracking and itchiness. Whilst in more severe cases, it can lead to bleeding and infection.
The seriousness of the condition is often underestimated though. Most commonly associated with a mild rash, eczema often causes great pain and discomfort in many sufferers. You only have to look at the recent case of Morgan Bishop to realise just how painful it can be. Morgan is a five-year-old boy whose eczema is so debilitating that he struggles to walk, and uses a mobility scooter to get around. This heart-breaking story really emphasises how torturous eczema can be, however it can be controlled in less serious cases.
Causes of eczema
Many different factors can cause eczema. Generally, it is a genetic condition, often linked to instances of asthma and hay fever within families.
Eczema occurs when the skin produces a lower quantity of oil and fat than usual, decreasing its capacity to retain water. This means that there are gaps in the skin’s protective barrier that allow irritants to pass through.
Sufferers of eczema can go through different stages, both when the condition is less severe and when the pain is unbearable. However, there are other non-genetic factors that can cause the eczema to flare up, these include:
- Weather – either extreme hot or cold
- Irritation caused by soaps and detergents
- Irritation caused by some fabrics, such as synthetics or wool
- Food allergies
Beware of “natural” online treatments
As they are often advertised as natural and highly effective, it can be very tempting to use the various treatments found online to treat eczema. However, before you do so, you should always check that these treatments are properly regulated in the UK. Unfortunately, many of the treatments found online are not. This means that there is no control over the ingredients of these products.
All of the treatments we have available at Oxford Online Pharmacy are regulated by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; this means that there are strict controls over the ingredients and tough tests for the products to pass.
In the case of unregulated treatments however, the ingredients may be advertised as natural but this is not always strictly true. Some of the products originating from Asia and Africa have also been found to contain potent steroids.
Products that were found to contain topical steroids include:
- Wau Wa
Many other Chinese herbal creams have also been found to contain topical steroids, and sometimes the creams are supplied with no name at all. This is extremely dangerous, as some of the creams instruct the user to apply liberally. However, steroid creams should be applied extremely sparingly.
If steroid creams are misused, they can be absorbed by the blood, which in turn affects other areas of the body. Overuse of these creams can result in reduced growth in children and have also been known to cause people to suffer from Cushing’s syndrome, which includes symptoms such as weight gain, mood swings and thinning skin.
As these treatments are not regulated by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, they have not been tested to ensure that they are safe, or even tested to prove that they work at all.
It is not recommended that you use any treatment purchased online without prior consolation from a qualified GP. Users should also be particularly wary of any treatments originating from abroad, any that have no evidence of testing or regulation, or any that do not display the full ingredients.
The key to effective treatment of eczema is to keep the area moisturised. Specialist moisturisers, known as emollients are unperfumed so they are less likely to irritate the skin; they are available in various forms, from thick creams to lighter lotions and cooling gels, such as aloe vera and wet wraps.
Applying emollient, wrapping the area in a wet bandage, and then covering the wet bandage with a dry bandage is an effective way of soothing irritated skin.
It is also important to know that soaps can dry out the skin, so it is important to find a moisturising substitute. Although these don’t normally foam as much, they are just as effective for cleaning.
If the weather is causing eczema to flare up, humidifiers can help if the environment is taking much needed moisture away from the skin.
In any instance, the most important thing when treating eczema is to consult a doctor. Our GP is qualified to advise you whether a natural treatment is the right one for you, if a medical treatment can have side effects or if they may react with other medication that you are already taking. We are here for you regardless of your query.