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General Overview |
Chinese Herbal Treatment |
Atopic Eczema |
Nummular Eczema |
Pompholyx (hand) Eczema |
Eczema is a general term for several types of inflammatory skin conditions. "Dermatitis" is an interchangeable term, and one some doctors may use instead, such as "atopic dermatitis" versus "atopic eczema".
All eczema is characterized by itching, scaling and possibly blisters, with varying degrees of redness. The severity and duration of illness varies from a few weeks of isolated occurrence to a lifelong condition. Western medicine can manage some cases with steroid or immunosuppressive creams, but considers eczema incurable.
CHINESE HERBAL TREATMENT
Eczema treatment is a Chinese Herbal Treatment specialty. In China, it is very rare to see the severity of eczema cases that one sees in North America. While this may well be due to many factors, a very important one is the ready recourse to Chinese herbal treatment at first onset of the condition. The eczema is nipped in the bud early on.
TCM success with eczema has been corroborated by science. A study performed at the Royal Free Hospital in London, England found Chinese herbs effective for the treatment of children with atopic eczema. It was reported in The Lancet medical journal, volume 340 in August 1992.
This is an allergic type of eczema, and is steadily increasing in industrialized countries. Currently one out of six babies develops it in the first year of life.
Affected children or adults often present with an entire allergic "package" that includes asthma, hayfever and possibly severe nut allergies.
Medical science has not been able to decipher the cause of these hypersensitivities, or determine exactly what it is that atopic eczema patients are reacting to. Allergy testing is more confusing than not, with some showing very few sensitivities, while others are clearly allergic to milk, wheat, eggs, and other foods.
Chinese Herbal Treatment works on the premise that the key is to reduce and eliminate the allergic reaction at the root, not just stay away from foods and substances that may trigger it. The way to do this is through individualized treatment, with careful attention to the exact presentation of each case. The main diagnostic question for Chinese Herbal Treatment in atopic cases is wether it is a "hot-dry" type of eczema, without blisters, or a weeping, "damp" type. This is sometimes not as obvious as it sounds, and requires a lot of experience.
The treatment for "hot-dry" and "damp" types is obviously very different. Dry eczema needs cooling and moistening herbs while damp eczema needs drying and cooling herbs. In addition, many other herbs are considered for the formula according to accompanying symptoms: sweating, constipation, insomnia, amount of itch, etc.
This may also be called discoid, because of the coin shaped lesions it presents with. It tends to be a blistering, weeping type of eczema, with a tendency for secondary infection of the skin. This is not hard to imagine since the skin is always open. The urgent aim of treatment is to stop the weeping and close up the wounds. Many herbs with strong antiseptic action against viral and bacterial pathogens are used in the treatment of nummular eczema. This is a relatively easy eczema to treat, with a reasonable expectation of a cure in every case.
POMPHOLYX (HAND) ECZEMA
This type of eczema affects the palms and sometimes soles, with very itchy small blisters, which may or may not rupture and crust over. It is a very inconvenient condition as it affects daily functioning, with patients unable to handle objects or tasks comfortably. For some, it is only a seasonal, (usually) late summer problem, while for many it becomes chronic and severe over many years.
Western medical treatment for this condition does more harm than good, at least in chronic cases. While short term, seasonal flares may be cured by steroid cream applications, in chronic cases repeated application of steroid creams will thin the skin and actually worsen the condition.
TCM treats pompholyx through a thorough diagnosis or internal organ function, as it considers this condition to be caused by poor digestion or liver congestion and "heat". The patient is questioned about digestive symptoms and the presentation and location of the blisters.
Nummular eczema is the easiest to treat, followed by pompholyx and atopic. The duration of treatment in all cases depends on the duration of illness. A case that has been active for decades will take many months, whereas one of very recent onset will clear up within 3 or 4 weeks.
For all types of eczema, the practitioner can assess several factors to "predict", to some degree, wether or not the case will be difficult. One such factor is wether the eczema presents typically or not. For instance, atopic eczema is usually present on the inside of joints, ie the elbows, knees, wrists. This is considered typical, and indicates a good prognosis. If, on the other hand, a patient has it on the outside of these joints, it will be a more difficult case, and both practitioner and client should have patience.
On average, successful treatment of all chronic, long term eczemas will take between 8 and 24 weeks.