Skin Condition Deep Dive: Eczema
What is Eczema?
Eczema is extremely widespread in the US, and it is estimated that over 31 million Americans suffer from some type of eczema. An estimated $364 million to $3.8 billion is spent on treating and managing eczema each year! You might be diagnosed with eczema, or maybe know someone who has been. It’s no mystery why eczema can be a tough and challenging condition to live with, accompanied by overwhelming psychological challenges.
In this blog post, we’re going to do a deep dive into eczema as a skin condition, discuss it from a scientific perspective, and suggest the best ways to tackle eczema head-on!
Some Basic Info
Eczema is a chronic (meaning long-lasting) inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by a dysfunctional skin barrier; this means that the outermost layer of your skin (a.k.a. our skin barrier) that defends the body against threats and protects its water balance isn’t working! Basically, this disease causes the skin to become inflamed and irritated, making it extremely itchy. The word eczema comes from the Greek word ekzein, meaning “to boil out”; ek means “out”, while zema means “boiling”. It’s a fitting name, considering the symptoms of eczema are usually associated with redness, swelling, crusting, and/or scaling.
The exact cause of eczema isn’t known yet. So what do we know? Well, it’s clear that eczema is a common condition and anyone can get the disease, but it is most commonly seen beginning in childhood. In the United States and Europe, the prevalence of eczema among children is estimated to be approximately 20%, while among adults it ranges between 7% to 14%.
While we don’t know the exact cause of eczema, most scientists agree that it’s mainly caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Genes responsible for encoding a number of proteins like filaggrin (which contributes to the skin's "natural moisturizing factor”) and proteases (which help breaks down proteins and peptides) have been studied extensively, and they’re shown to potentially cause eczema by affecting the skin barrier.
Genes aren’t everything though! A number of environmental triggers such as allergens, poor hygiene, and diet have also been attributed to a dysfunctional skin barrier.
Eczema in Natural Medicine
Outside of Western medicine, alternative therapies like Chinese herbal
preparations, homeopathy, yoga, Ayurveda, or massage therapy are becoming more and more popular - especially in treating skin conditions like eczema! Let’s talk a bit more about eczema in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda, a traditional holistic form of medicine that began in India seeks to bring the mind, body, and soul into balance by employing herbs, oils, diet, massage, and mind-body practices like yoga and meditation to balance the life humors, or doshas. Ayurveda describes skin diseases as kushtham, and eczema as a type of kshudra kushtha, or minor skin ailments. Ayurveda distinguishes between two forms of eczema: 1) acute eczema, which is usually seen as a rapidly evolving, red, blistered, and swollen rash; 2) chronic eczema, which is a long term, irritating condition affecting sensitive skin.
Let’s Get Historical
According to ancient Ayurvedic classical texts, eczema has the following symptoms: Kandu
(excessive itching), Pidika (vesicle/boil/pustule), Shyavata (discoloration), Bahusrava (profuse
oozing), Ruja (Pain), and Rukshata (excessive driness).
Ayurveda proposed that the primary cause of eczema and related skin conditions in patients was an irritation of the Kapha Dosha. The Kapha Dosha is related to our immune system, body strength, muscle growth, and body weight.
Moisturizing is self care!
In conclusion, it’s obvious that eczema affects the body and the mind. In our Part 2 of this Eczema Deep Dive series, we’re going to discuss solutions and treatments for eczema from the Ayurvedic and the medical perspective. It can be tough to live with chronic eczema, but educating ourselves on this skin condition is the first step in the journey to moisturized, healthy skin. Let us know in the comments below your thoughts and/or your journey with eczema
If you’re interested in Ayurvedic medicine and what it can do for your skin, start by checking out this free dosha quiz to figure out your Ayurvedic dosha! If you enjoyed this post and learned something from it, please spread the word by sharing this post on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook below.