Cold, dry weather can have us all slathering on more lotion and cream. But, for those who suffer with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema it signals the beginning of a seemingly endless battle of intensely itchy, irritated skin and embarrassing patches of redness and open sores.
About 20% of children suffer with eczema and 3% of adults deal with eczema or psoriasis. Neither is contagious and though one single cause is still unknown, the origins of both are genetic and can be triggered by allergies and stress.
Eczema, also know as “Atopic Dermatitis” is a chronic inflammatory skin disease which causes dry, itchy, irritated skin. It can appear anywhere on the body, but many times occurs on the elbows and behind the knees.
Irritants such as soaps, detergents or shampoos can trigger or worsen the symptoms. The culprit can differ from person to person, so it’s important to pay close attention to find what may be a trigger for you. Environmental allergens like dust mites, pet dander or mold can also cause a flare up, as can food allergies. One thing’s for sure-finding the root cause of atopic dermatitis can be very difficult.
Psoriasis is a more involved and complex condition. People affected by psoriasis are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and other immune related inflammatory diseases.
While the edges of eczema rashes have irregular edges, psoriatic lesions tend to be more distinct. The most common type of psoriasis is Plaque Psoriasis, which produces raised, thickened patches of red skin covered with silvery scales. While normal skin takes 28-30 days to mature, psoriatic skin matures in 3-4 days. Instead of sloughing off, the dead skin cells pile up on the surface and trigger inflammation and overproduction of skin cells.
Without a known cause, treatment consists of managing the symptoms and doing all you can to lead a healthy lifestyle. Traditional treatments eczema include, steroid creams and antihistamines. General rules of thumb are: taking short warm (not hot) showers, pat skin with towel and immediately apply moisturizer after your shower.
In severe cases of both eczema and psoriasis, Phototherapy may be used. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light to help reduce the itch, bring down inflammation and increase Vitamin D production.
Treatment for Psoriasis also includes steroid creams. Salicylic acid may be used for small areas as it promotes shedding of psoriatic scales. Calcipotriene, another topical ointment, is related to Vitamin D and may be used in limited amounts. Doctors may also prescribe retinoids. In severe cases, oral medication that suppresses the immune system may be used.
Lifestyle changes can also help symptoms from both psoriasis and eczema. You may try an anti-inflammatory diet, such as, cutting out sugar, white bread and pasta, alcohol, milk and gluten. Add in fish oil and plenty of fresh leafy greens.
Managing your stress level is very important as stress can trigger and worsen your symptoms. Try exercise, meditation and of course getting a relaxing treatment at my spa.
If you prefer more natural, at home treatments, you can try Aloe Vera gel, Calendula cream and taking Epsom salt or Dead Sea Salt baths. Essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile or neroli mixed with almond or jojoba oil can soothe and reduce inflammation. Coconut oil is also excellent for the skin and can be applied directly to the affected areas. You can also make a paste out of nutmeg powder and warm water and apply to the skin. And last, but not least, drink lots of water!
Although a single cause of eczema and psoriasis is still unknown, you still have the power to do what you can to reduce flare-ups and ease the symptoms.