Eczema is an itchy, scaly rash often caused by sensitivity to foods, certain chemicals or environmental conditions such as dryness. The ash is not always a true allergic reaction, but an immune system reaction to a normally harmless substance. Symptoms vary and can appear anywhere from a few minutes to several hours after exposure to the offending food or substance.Eczema runs in families often along with a tendency to develop asthma, hay fever or hives.
Signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
- Red to brownish-gray colored patches
- Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
- Small, raised bumps
- Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
- Raw, sensitive skin from scratching
Though the patches can occur anywhere, they most often appear on the hands and feet, on the arms, behind the knees, and on the ankles, wrists, face, neck and upper chest. Atopic dermatitis can also affect the skin around your eyes, including your eyelids. Scratching can cause redness and swelling around the eyes. Sometimes, rubbing or scratching in this area causes patchy loss of eyebrow hair and eyelashes.
Atopic dermatitis most often begins in childhood — between the ages of 5 and 7 — and may persist into adulthood. For some, it flares periodically and then subsides for a time, even up to several years. Itching may be severe, and scratching the rash can make it even itchier. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle can be challenging.
The following factors can worsen signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis:
- Long, hot baths or showers
- Dry skin
- Rapid changes in temperature
- Low humidity
- Solvents, cleaners, soaps or detergents
- Wool or man-made fabrics or clothing
- Dust or sand
- Cigarette smoke
When atopic dermatitis occurs in infants, it’s called infantile eczema. This condition begins in infancy and may continue into childhood and adolescence. Infantile eczema often involves an oozing, crusting rash, mainly on the face and scalp, but it can occur anywhere. After infancy, the rash becomes dryer and tends to be red to brown-gray in color. In adolescence, the skin may be scaly or thickened and easily irritated. The intense itching may continue.
The Role of Diet
Certain foods trigger eczema. Common foods include eggs, dairy products, seafood, walnuts and pecans. Cow’s milk can cause eczema in babies and small children; they may be able to tolerate goat’s milk or soy-based products. Coupled with a regimented Homeopathic treatment plan, certain dietary controls can help treat eczema. Consuming more antioxidants such as that found in apricots, squash, mangoes and carrots can help eliminate dryness. Eating foods rich in EFA (essential fatty acids) can help decrease swelling and inflammation.