Eczema

Eczema (pronounced eg-zuh-ma) is basically a group of various conditions which make the skin red, itchy, hot, dry and inflamed. There are many types of eczema that cause distinctive reaction patterns in the skin, which can be either acute or chronic and due to a number of causes.

The condition is very common but it is not contagious. Often, it is used synonymously with the term “dermatitis” which is a superficial inflammation of the epidermis (skin) that can be acute and chronic; owing to a number of causes. This is why another commonly used term to define eczema would be atopic dermatitis.

Eczema can manifest on any part of the body. It is also a condition that can be seen in infants. However, in infants, it usually occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp and neck. The regions affected by the condition are dry, thickened or scalp in appearance. One may also see some hyperpigmentation. In kids and in adults, eczema generally manifests on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp and neck. The itchy rash could also show oozing and crusting. The repeated scratching can give a leathery texture to the skin due to thickening (lichenification).

Types of Eczema

There are two groups of eczemas: Exogenous and endogenous.
While overlap between the two groups is common, distinction between them is critical for treatment because avoidance of incriminating contactants takes precedence over other measures in the management of exogenous eczema.
Classification of Eczema
Exogenous
• Contact Dermatitis – Primary Irritant or Allergic Contact
• Photodermatitis
• Phytodermatitis
• Photophytodermatitis
• Hypostatic Or Varicose Eczema
• Lichen Simplex
• Autosensitization Dermatitis

Endogenous

  • Atopic
  • Seborrheic
  • Discoid
  • Asteatotic
  • Gravitational
  • Localized neurodermatitis
  • Pompholyx

Symptoms of Eczema

  • In the former, there is no secretion whereas in the latter, the patches may “weep,” either by scratching or without it
  • Redness and swelling, usually with ill-defined margin
  • Papules, vesicles and more rarely, large blisters
  • Exudation and cracking
  • Scaling
  • Lichenification, a dry leathery thickening with increased skin markings, is secondary to rubbing and scratching
  • Fissures and scratch marks
  • Pigmentation

Some of the related manifestations of eczema are:

  • Keratosis pilaris: Small, rough bumps like “chicken skin” on the surface of the arms, buttocks and anterior portion of thighs
  • Ichthyosis vulgaris: Fish-like scales, especially on the legs; thickened skin with increased visible lines on the palms and soles
  • Keratoconus: Cornea becomes cone-shaped in severe cases, usually in the later years
  • Dennie-Morgan line: Prominent skin folds below the eyes
  • Fissures form on the palms, soles and fingers
  • Red patches on the face
  • Pale area around the mouth (perioral pallor)
  • Dryness of skin
  • Recurrent, asymptomatic, hypopigmented scaly lesions on the face and shoulders

Causes of Eczema

It is difficult to pinpoint exact eczema causes as each of the varied types have their own causes. By and large, the cause of atopic (endogenous) eczema is genetic. Atopy is generally inherited and can be seen in families with a history of related disorders like asthma, hay fever, urticaria, food allergies, etc. A person with atopic eczema has a higher tendency to develop allergies to other things as well. Studies are being conducted to identify the causes of certain types of eczema, particularly the link between eczema and stress and environmental factors.

Essentially, the causes of eczema can be understood as:
1. Hereditary factors (makes one prone to eczema)
2. Environmental factors (triggers and sustains eczema)

The causes for exogenous eczema are also many with a few of the common ones being:
Direct or indirect contact with soaps, perfumes, dyes, cosmetics (deodorants, makeup, nail polish, etc.), metal compounds (nickel, mercury, etc.), rubber, leather, resins, etc. Exposure to sunlight can also be one of the causative factors.

The exact cause of other types of eczema such as infantile and adult seborrheic eczema, and discoid eczema, the causes remain unknown.

Eczema experienced in the silver years of life can be due to poor blood circulation in the legs (stasis dermatitis).

Stress and related negative emotions like grief, anxiety, guilt, frustration and suppressed emotions can affect the working of the hypothalamus and the adrenal glands which have a negative impact on your immunity. When the body’s immunity is lowered, the skin becomes more prone to such conditions.

Ayurveda and Eczema

According to Ayurveda, eczema or vicharchika can be primarily attributed to a poor diet and lifestyle which impairs digestion and aggravates Pitta dosha (biohumor representing Fire and Water). Pitta shows up in the skin as blisters and breakouts due to the accumulation of internally heating toxins called ama. When these toxins enter the deeper layers of the bodily tissues they contaminate them to cause this condition.
However, eczema may also be caused due to an imbalance of the other doshas. Here is a look at the different manifestations of the condition based on the dosha that is aggravated.
Vata dosha: This eczema is characterized by extreme dryness, scaling, itching and lots of pain and throbbing.
Pitta dosha: Pitta-type eczema shows up as red, blistery, bleeding, burning sensation and infections. Pitta people may be susceptible to seborrheic and contact dermatitis due to excess heat, particularly in the armpits and on the scalp.
Kapha dosha: Kaphic eczema itches, oozes and causes thickening of the skin. Kapha individuals may be prone to seborrheic eczema, especially in between rolls of fats as well as other moist sweaty areas.
Tridoshic eczema may show symptoms of all three types of eczema. This is commonly seen in most chronic cases.

Ayurvedic Treatment of Eczema

Herbs
  • Neem (Azadirachta Indica): Neem is a bitter, astringent herb that is cooling and highly antibacterial. It is one of the top home remedies for eczema in Ayurveda as it clears away toxins in the blood and liver. One can use neem oil to massage over affected areas to relieve eczema symptoms and aids skin regeneration. Neem can also be taken internally by using the leaves in cooking dishes with a hint of bitter.
  • Madhuka (Honey): Honey is among the best natural treatment for eczema as it works as a humectant, an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agent. This ensures that any broken skin is healed. The only disadvantage of this Ayurvedic treatment of eczema is that it has a sticky consistency which makes it difficult to use over larger areas.
  • Manjishta (Rubia Cordifolia): Manjistha is an herb that is a natural cure for eczema because it is Pitta pacifying, calms itching and acts as a blood purifier. Indian madder is a detoxifying herb that can be used along with neem for a thorough skin clarifying effect. To make the best remedy for eczema, mix neem and manjistha in equal proportions and consume half a teaspoon of this mixture twice a day with warm water after meals.
  • Turmeric (Curcuma Longa): Turmeric can be used both internally and externally as one of the potent herbal remedies for eczema. Drinking golden milk every night before going to bed can be soothing for the skin from the inside out. Boil half a teaspoon of turmeric and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and use this solution to wash the affected areas. Turmeric is also a common kitchen herb used in everyday cooking, add it to your smoothies for a tinge of flavor and color.
  • Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus): Shatavari root when infused in oil is a natural cure for eczema. Shatavari is a cooling herb that calms Pitta and is a great help for the digestive system. One can take a teaspoon of shatavari in warm milk at bedtime.
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra): Mulethi or licorice is a bitter cooling herb that is highly anti-inflammatory in nature and soothes tissues to beat irritation. This is what makes this one of the best herbs for eczema. Make a licorice root salve by boiling 2 tbsp. dried licorice root and 6 cups water. Cover the pan, lower heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. You can use this with a cold compress or add it to bathwater for soothing relief.
  • Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis Mill.): Deeply moisturizing and nourishing, aloe vera or kumari is one of the best herbs for eczema. Drink 30ml of aloe juice every morning. You can also apply the fresh gel on the affected areas for quick relief from itching and burning.
Ayurvedic Supplements (to be taken under physician’s guidance – Consult Now)  

             Neem Guard

             Surakta Syrup

             Raktasodhak Bati

             Rasamanikaya 

             Gandhak Rasayana

             Manjishtadi Kadha

             Kaishore Guggulu

             Sarivadyasava

             Tikta Ghrita

             Triphala

             Neem Oil

             Mahamarichyadi Taila

Diet
  • Salt and sugar intake should be reduced.
  • Sour items including pickles and curd are strictly prohibited.
  • Bitters like neem and turmeric are useful. Turmeric is perhaps the best as it can be applied externally.
  • Constipation can make your body look for other outlets for toxins. The skin being one of the prime regions for the expulsion of toxins, one should ensure that they get enough hydration and at least 30 gms of fiber daily.
  • Probiotics like whey are a must for good gut health which also boosts immune health.
  • Seeds like pumpkin and chia are high in zinc, a nutrient needed to heal wounds and metabolize fatty acids.
  • One should stay away from processed and fried foods as they cause inflammation.
  • Eczema can be triggered by potential allergens. Some common allergen foods include gluten, dairy, shellfish or peanuts.
  • Eat foods that are rich in gelatin that can be a boon to your gut as well as skin, hair and nail health. Grass fed cattle, pastured poultry or wild caught fish are good sources of gelatin and essential fatty acids that can be made into a nutritious and wholesome bone broth.
  • Staying away from spicy and oily foods need to be followed in this condition.
Lifestyle
  • Take a bath daily with water boiled with neem bark. After cleaning, the paste of the bark should be applied over the affected areas and allowed to dry.
  • If regular soaps and cleansers are too harsh for the skin, washing the skin with natural cleansers like oatmeal and besan (gram flour) can be gentle and moisturizing. This is especially helpful as baby eczema natural remedies as natural cleansing methods work best on soft, baby skin.
  • One also needs to stay away from hot, humid temperatures and keep free from any tight clothing.
  • Get some direct sunlight as the Vitamin D can improve immunity and help prevent breakouts.
  • While eczema is sometimes worsened by soaking in water, some may benefit from adding magnesium bath salts and/or Himalayan salt to their bathwater.
  • Wear light, cotton clothing which are breathable and do not encourage sweating (which could burn).
  • Stress could cause the condition to become aggravated. This is where daily meditation and pranayama practice can help.
Yoga
  • Headstand (Shirshasana)
  • Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
  • Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
  • Wind-Relieving Pose (Pawanmuktasana)
  • Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
  • Moon Salutation