Eczema, also known a dermatitis is a debilitating skin condition that affects 1 in 3 Australians (Eczema Association of Australia). Eczema can occur in any stages of life starting as young as early childhood from the ages of 2 to 6 months and in adulthood. In TCM Eczema is referred as 湿疹 Shi Zhen, where Shi 湿 = Dampness and Zhen疹 = Rash. Therefore its straightforward as the disease name, it is mostly caused by dampness accumulating on skin surface.
The common symptom of Eczema are:
Moderate to severe itchy skin
Red rash occupied by either dry, patchy, weepy, thicken, cracked skin, bleeding and/or scales
Papules, vesicles, crusting
Areas that are commonly found are on the flexors of the knees and arms however, it can occur on the hands, feet neck, face and any parts of the body
Accompanying symptoms are :
Stress, irritability and mood swings
Depression and Anxiety
Poor digestive and bowel function
Poor concentration and focus
What cause eczema? In Chinese medicine, any condition is an indication of an imbalance of YIN and YANG and energy distribution in the body. For Eczema to most common differential diagnosis are:
Dampness: which is the biggest reason causing Eczema. Usually is caused by deficiency in Spleen, as the function of Spleen weaken’s, it causes dampness accumulating in the body. Spleen function is easily affected by diet.
Wind: mostly results in the itchiness. This is where the symptoms draws the line, itchiness causes by wind are often caused by blood deficiency which is another underlaying reason for eczema.
Blood Deficiency: when the blood is not enough to nourish the skin, the skin will become dry and flaky.
Heat: causing the skin to become red and inflammed.
Toxic heat: the extra step from heat causing the skin to fill with pus
The reason for eczema are often due to may factors and with increasing years of the condition the cause of it becomes furthermore complicated.
How do we approach eczema? There is every one medicine fits all approach from Chinese medicine perspective. Individual’s life style, diet and environment are all different, thus the aetiology of the condition is never the same.
In TCM there are different ways to target eczema:
Acupuncture: to relief itchiness, regulate meridian and blood &energy distribution.
Herbal Medicine: The most effort is paid into this part, in order to resolve the internal hormone and disharmony of the organ functions.
Topical Herbal Ointment: using natural herbs to ease dry and itchiness, in order to replace the steroids creams.
When will I see some results?
Depending on the conditions, its is all different. If it is a newly onset less than 2 month of symptoms, the treatment period will be looking at around 4-8weeks with weekly treatment. Improvement should be seen within 2 weeks of treatment.
However, longterm eczema lasting for more than 2 years will be much more complicated, especially in adults. Generally, it will take 3-6 months. The duration often depends on the severity of the eczema. However, the skin will see some form of improvements such as reduction of flare ups, itchiness and redness within 3 months of consistent acupuncture and herbal medicine. In addition, accompanying symptoms listed above will greatly improved as well.
In extreme cases regular treatment and follow ups will be always required but the frequency will be significantly lowered (Fortnightly or monthly).
How does Chinese medicine help with getting off topical corticosteroids? We would go through it very gently and slowly. Firstly, the potency of topical corticosteroids will be reduced while taking Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture to help manage the symptoms. Over time, the use of topical corticosteroids will be reduced and, be completely eliminated, then to be replaced with Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Going off topical corticosteroids abruptly will cause an intense flare up therefore, to manage these flare ups a cautious and sensitive approach is adopted.
What can you do to help yourself? Majority of eczema sufferers find that by avoiding certain types of food and using a natural skin care product can help reduce the severity of their skin condition. Foods to consider avoiding are gluten, sugar, dairy, alcohol, processed food, deep fried and greasy food. Warming spices such as turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon should be used minimally to avoid adding Heat to the body. Part of the approach and strategy to eczema in Chinese medicine is to clear Heat from the body. Redness and inflammation are seen as Heat. Heat can dry out fluids that moisturise the skin, therefore causing dry, cracked and itchy skin. Natural skin care are recommended to keep the skin moist. As there are many natural skin products available in the market today, it is important to read the ingredients used in the product. Ingredients such as shea butter, jojoba oils are good at moisturising dry skin. Avoid any synthetic scent which can cause irritation to the skin, this include perfume and cologne. It is best to go scent free if possible however, some essential oils derived from plants such as chamomile and lavender can be added to sooth the skin, which also has a calming affect on the mind.
Where do we from here? Chinese medicine approach and strategy to addressing eczema is to look at each presenting symptoms individually. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. If you would like to find out more about how Chinese medicine and Acupuncture can help with your eczema, BOOK ONLINE for initial Consult. We look forward to hearing from you.