Navigating the Challenges of Eczema: Understanding Treatment Options in Ayurveda

Posted by Dr. Karthik Pandit

The prevalence rate of Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis is rising. It affects 15-30% of children and 2-10% of adults in developed countries – Yes India included. 

Eczema is a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory skin condition that can cause a range of symptoms, including inflammation, redness, and itching. Eczema is sometimes termed as atopic dermatitis, which is the most common form of the condition. 

Eczema can occur in people of all ages but is most common in infants and children. Eczema isn’t contagious. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is thought that people with eczema have a weakened skin barrier, which allows irritants and allergens to penetrate the skin and cause an inflammatory response. 

There is no known cure for eczema. There are treatments available in allopathy to help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. 

Ayurveda treatment for eczema, however involves a holistic approach that focuses on treating the root cause of the condition rather than just the symptoms and promote overall health and well-being to support healthy skin function.

In general, eczema can affect the skin by causing:

  • Dry, scaly or leathery patches on the skin
  • Dark colored patches
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling
  • Crusting and oozing

6 most common types of Eczema, causes and symptoms

There are several types of eczema, each with its own set of symptoms and triggers. The most common types of eczema include:

Atopic dermatitis:
This is the most common and severe type of eczema and is often seen in people with a history of allergies or asthma or who have a family history of the condition. It often begins in childhood and can continue on through adulthood. The condition is characterized by itchy, red, and dry skin. It affects the insides of the elbows, backs of the knees, and the face, but can cover most of the body.

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is not known, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. People with atopic dermatitis may have a weakened skin barrier, which allows allergens and irritants to enter the skin and cause inflammation.

Contact dermatitis:

Contact dermatitis is a type of skin inflammation that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen. It is a common condition that can affect people of all ages and can occur anywhere on the body. Symptoms of contact dermatitis can include redness, itching, swelling, and blistering

Nummular eczema:

Nummular eczema, also known as nummular dermatitis or discoid eczema, is a type of eczema that is characterized by circular or coin-shaped patches on the skin. These patches may be red, scaly, itchy, and they can occur anywhere on the body. The exact cause of Nummular eczema is not known, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is more common in people with a history of atopic dermatitis or allergies, and it may be triggered by skin injuries, dry skin, or stress.

Seborrheic dermatitis:

This is a common skin condition that causes a scaly rash on oily areas of the body like the scalp , face, and inside the ears. This chronic form of eczema is most common in infants and adults between 30 and 60 years of age. Symptoms may include redness, itching, and flaking skin.

Dyshidrotic eczema:

Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as pompholyx, is a type of eczema that primarily affects the hands and feet. It is characterized by small, itchy blisters that form on the fingers, palms, soles, and toes. The blisters can be painful and may cause the skin to become red and cracked. The cause of dyshidrotic eczema is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to allergies, stress, and exposure to certain metals or chemicals. The condition is more common in people with a history of other types of eczema, allergies, or asthma.

Neurodermatitis:

Neurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus, is a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy and scaly patches of skin. It typically begins as a small patch of itchy skin, which is then scratched repeatedly, causing the skin to thicken, and become scaly. This process can lead to a cycle of itching and scratching that can be difficult to break. Neurodermatitis can occur anywhere on the body, but it most commonly affects the neck, wrists, ankles, and genitals. It can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or other emotional factors, as well as by skin irritation, such as insect bites or even tight clothing. It is important to note that these types of eczema may overlap, and some people may experience more than one type of eczema at the same time.

#5 major causes of eczema?

While the exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, we can broadly categorise the causes of eczema into #5 categories
  • Immune system dysfunction: Eczema is thought to be a dysfunction of the immune system that causes your body to overreact to certain triggers, such as irritants or allergens leading to inflammation and other eczema symptoms that show up on your skin.
  • Genetics: Eczema tends to run in families. You are at increased risk if you have a family history of the condition or other related allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.  Another possibility is that genetic mutation can indeed prevent your skin’s protective barrier from functioning correctly, making it more susceptible to irritants and allergens that can trigger eczema. 
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain irritants, such as soaps, detergents, and household cleaners, can trigger eczema symptoms. Other triggers include allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander, as well as cold or dry weather.
  • Emotional triggers: Your mental health could affect the health of your skin, which in turn can cause a flare-up of eczema symptoms .Stress, anxiety, and other strong emotions can cause the body to release certain chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can trigger inflammation and exacerbate  the symptoms of eczema.
  • Hormones: Hormones can also play a role in triggering or exacerbating eczema symptoms, particularly in women. Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can trigger eczema flare-ups or make existing symptoms worse.

Ayurveda perspective and management of eczema.

Ayurveda views eczema as a manifestation of imbalanced doshas, or the three fundamental energies that govern the human body: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. According to Ayurveda, eczema is primarily caused by an accumulation of toxins in the body, which disrupts the natural balance of these doshas. This can be caused by poor digestion, stress, and other #5 Ayurvedic management / treatment regimens for eczema:
  1. Ayurvedic medications: The doctor may recommend medications which may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. These medications can be in the form of oral medications or external applications such as creams, ointments, or oils to help soothe and heal the skin.
  2. Dietary modifications: Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of a healthy and balanced diet for overall health and well-being. In the case of eczema, a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats, can help support healthy digestion, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the immune system.
  3. Lifestyle modifications: Ayurveda also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to manage eczema. This can include getting regular exercise, maintaining good sleep habits, and avoiding exposure to environmental triggers such as harsh chemicals and allergens.
  4. Stress management: Stress can exacerbate eczema symptoms, so managing stress is an important part of Ayurvedic management for eczema. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  5. Panchakarma Therapy: Panchakarma is an Ayurvedic detoxification treatment that involves five different procedures to remove toxins from the body and restore balance to the doshas. In certain cases of eczema, this treatment may be advised.

What are the complications of eczema?

  • Skin infections: Eczema can damage the skin barrier and increase the risk of skin infections, including impetigo, folliculitis, and cellulitis.
  • Chronic itching: Intense itching is a common symptom of eczema and can lead to chronic scratching, which can further damage the skin, increase the risk of skin infections, and worsen eczema symptoms.
  • Sleep disturbances: Eczema can cause significant itching and discomfort, which can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Chronic sleep disturbances can lead to fatigue, irritability, and other health problems.
  • Eye problems: Eczema can cause inflammation and itching around the eyes, which can lead to eye complications such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis, which causes general inflammation and redness of your eyelid.
  • Asthma and hay fever: Eczema is often associated with other atopic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. People with eczema may be more likely to develop these conditions.
  • Skin discoloration: Chronic eczema can cause hyper pigmentation or hypo pigmentation, which can lead to changes in skin color.
  • Psycho social problems: Eczema can cause significant emotional distress and impact a person’s quality of life. It can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, and anxiety or depression.

Conclusion:

Eczema is seen as a common disorder worldwide that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, both physically and mentally. It is important to note that there are different types of eczema, and some people may experience more than one type of eczema at the same time. Both Allopathy and Ayurveda recognize that eczema is a chronic condition, that is difficult to cure completely. While there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and reduce flare-ups, there is currently no known cure for eczema. Allopathic treatment typically focuses on managing the symptoms of eczema with topical creams, oral medications, and lifestyle changes. These treatments can help reduce inflammation, alleviate itching, and preventing infections, but they do not offer a permanent cure. Ayurveda, on the other hand, takes a holistic approach to managing eczema by addressing the underlying causes of the condition. According to Ayurveda, eczema is caused by an imbalance of the doshas, or energy types, in the body. Treatment typically involves a combination of dietary changes, herbal remedies, and lifestyle modifications. Ayurveda aims to balance the doshas and promote overall health and well-being to support healthy skin function.

FAQ’S

Is eczema an autoimmune disease?

Eczema is often associated with an overactive immune system and is considered to be an immune-mediated condition. However, it is not typically classified as an autoimmune disease.

Is eczema contagious?

No, eczema is not contagious. Eczema is a non-infectious skin condition that is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. It cannot be spread from person to person through contact.

Is it possible to have more than one type of eczema at a time?

Yes, it is possible to have more than one type of eczema at the same time. For example, someone with atopic dermatitis may also develop contact dermatitis if they come into contact with an irritating substance.

Is there a cure for eczema in allopathy?

Currently, there is no known cure for eczema. Eczema is a chronic condition, it can go away and come back unexpectedly. Treatments are very effective in reducing the symptoms of itchy, dry skin.

Is there a permanent cure for eczema in Ayurveda?

There is no permanent cure for Eczema. However, Ayurveda offers time tested remedies to manage the symptoms of eczema most effectively and safely, without side- effects. There are several instances where, after Ayurvedic treatment for eczema at UWAY, the patients have enjoyed long periods of remission from symptoms with improved quality of life.

How is Eczema treated with ayurveda at Uway?

At Uway, the initial treatment regimen for eczema involves the use of time tested classic ayurvedic oral medications combined with lifestyle modification and changed dietary habits. In some cases, where the patient does not respond favourably to the oral medications, panchakarma treatment would be recommended.

What is the duration of treatment for eczema?

The initial treatment for eczema with ayurveda may  involve three stages, where the first stage is to actively treat the symptoms, the second stage involves  immunomodulatory treatment that aims to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. The third stage involves minimum maintenance therapy. The third stage could either be lifelong or for a period of 6 to 18 months.

When can someone start seeing improvement in their condition with eczema treatment at Uway?

The response time for patients to start seeing a perceptible improvement in their condition with eczema may depend upon factors like the severity and stage of the disease, the allopathic medicines the patient is currently taking etc. In general, you can start seeing a perceptible difference within 4 to 6 weeks of treatment.

Can Ayurveda medicines for the treatment of eczema cause side-effects?

Ayurveda medications are usually very safe and effective for treating eczema. Ayurvedic medicines are made of time-tested natural herbs and substances that are the gift of nature to mankind. At UWAY, our doctors prescribe only proven medicines from well-established and reputed ayurvedic medicine manufacturers. However, just like certain foods do not always agree with everyone, few ayurvedic medicines may cause mild side effects in some patients. This is very rare though. In case you notice any such issue you can always talk to your consulting doctor or our medical team.
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