Is Eczema putting you at war with your own skin?
While it may be exciting to “dress with flair,” there is nothing exciting about an eczema flare-up. You may be wondering about the origin of eczema, and what in heavens people do about it! Here is an overview of the etiology (the fancy medical term for what causes a condition) of eczema, and common treatments.
According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), we do not know what exactly causes this condition, but research has revealed that genes and specific triggers contribute to the condition. For instance, those with eczema typically have an overactive immune system that causes inflammation in response to external and/ or internal triggers (i.e. allergens, irritants in the environment, food allergens, stress).
There are various treatments for eczema depending on the severity of the condition. Generally, over-the-counter hydrocortisone (a topical steroid) is the first-line treatment used for mild eczema, as well as antihistamines to reduce the itch. For more severe cases, oral steroids and/or injections may be prescribed.
While some may turn to these medications, it is important to also take into account the factors that could be contributing to eczema, as treating only the symptoms without focusing on the whole person (and underlying triggers) can be compared to turning off the smoke alarm without removing the gasoline that fuels the fire. A more empowering route is to integrate a mindful awareness of what sets off your skin, so that you are attuned to your unique sensitivities and can proactively avoid these triggers. You deserve to be an active participant in both healing, and in maintaining your health.
Now, eczemas’ supposed “twin”(psoriasis) is kindly requesting a shoutout. Before we begin on the origin of psoriasis and its common treatments, let’s clear the air: Indeed, it is not unusual for people to confuse eczema with psoriasis, and vice versa, but it is important to clarify that they are not twins; these are two distinctly different conditions.
The exact cause of this condition is still somewhat of a mystery, but experts are aware that the immune system plays a major role. In addition, research has shown that roughly 40% of those with psoriasis also have a family member who has the condition, demonstrating that genetic factors may play a role in the development of psoriasis. Another important factor that should not be underestimated are potential triggers, which can cause psoriasis symptoms to arise for the first time or lead to a flare-up. Triggers vary from person to person, and what triggers one may not be an issue for someone else.
Becoming aware of what triggers you personally are a vital step in the successful management of this condition. Common triggers include stress, smoking, heavy drinking, certain medications, and cold, dry weather.
There are a variety of treatments for psoriasis, from over-the-counter options, to more invasive medications with black box warnings. One of the most commonly prescribed medications for treating psoriasis is topical corticosteroids to decrease itching and inflammation. While this is one of the most frequently used medications for psoriasis, there is growing concern about the risk of drug dependence associated with the use of corticosteroids; research has revealed that they have an addictive potential. If you would like information on how topical corticosteroids create a cycle of dependence click here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171914/#ref4
Medications used for moderate to severe psoriasis include methotrexate and biologic drugs (I.e. Humira) which is typically administered as an injection. Biologic drugs target and disable specific parts of the immune system to control psoriasis symptoms and flare-ups. When considering treatment options consult a physician who will address your questions and concerns, and discuss the pros and cons with you. In addition, doing your own research can help you learn about the potential benefits and side effects, and empower you to make an educated decision.
Check out our blog here to learn more about the differences between eczema and psoriasis.
Here are a few useful tips for eczema and psoriasis:
- Avoid landmines! Beware of triggers. If you are in Bosnia (a country in Europe riddled with landmines), you need to avoid certain marked areas so as not to trigger any landmines. When it comes to eczema and psoriasis, mark your “off-limits” territory. Awareness of your triggers is key to avoiding them.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize. Did I say moisturize? Apply it however you’d like–squirt it on, rub it in–just remember to moisturize! Those with eczema and psoriasis have impaired barrier function and skin inflammation, so protecting the skin and keeping it moisturized is vital.
- Stress relief. Try some yoga, tai chi, or deep breathing. Stress is a serious concern that can cause a flare-up and exacerbate these conditions. Keeping your stress in check can help keep your skin inflammation at bay.