What is Eczema?
Atopic eczema can affect any part of the body, but most commonly affects the backs or fronts of the knees and the outside or inside of the elbows. It may also affect around the neck, hands, cheeks and scalp. Symptoms of eczema may vary in intensity over time. The cause of eczema is not fully understood and may be due to a number of factors. However, eczema frequently occurs in people who have allergies, such as hay fever, or asthma. Eczema flare-ups may be triggered by stress, contact allergy to chemicals, such as detergents, changes in the weather and certain foods, such as dairy products or caffeine.
There is currently no cure for atopic eczema. Conventional medical treatments for eczema include avoidance of triggers, moisturising creams (emollients) and use of topical corticosteroids.
The incidence of eczema and allergies in young children is increasing very rapidly. One hypothesis is that this is due to the excessive use of strong household detergents and cleaning products which remove the natural microbial flora of the home. As a consequence, young children do not get the necessary exposure to normal environmental allergens for their immune systems to develop properly.
Psoriasis, also called psoriasis vulgaris, is a common, chronic, relapsing and remitting condition characterised by skin lesions. Plaque psoriasis, the most common form, typically presents as red and white scaly patches on the top layer of the skin. It is thought the increased production of skin cells is related to a problem with the immune system. The immune system is your body’s natural defence against disease and infection, but in people with psoriasis it attacks healthy skin cells by mistake. The skin lesions, which usually itch, vary in severity from minor localised patches to complete body cover. Plaques often occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area, including the scalp, palms of hands, and soles of feet, and genitals. In contrast to eczema, psoriasis is more likely to be found on the outer side of the joint.
Inflammation, swelling and pain of the joints, known as psoriatic arthritis, affects up to 30% of individuals with psoriasis. The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood. It is not purely a skin disorder and can affect other organ systems. It is generally considered to be a genetic disease which is influenced or triggered by environmental factors. Psoriasis is not contagious.
There is no cure for psoriasis. Conventional treatments include topical treatments, such as corticosteroids and vitamin D analogues and in more severe cases, phototherapy (UV light therapy) and systemic drug treatments.
Severe psoriasis can lead to feelings of low esteem or depression. If you are concerned about your psoriasis or you feel it is having a significant impact on your life, consult your GP. There are support groups for psoriasis sufferers.
Acupuncture for Eczema & Psoriasis
Studies of acupuncture for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis are limited. More research is needed. However, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating a range of allergic and inflammatory conditions. It is believed that acupuncture may help relieve symptoms of atopic eczema and psoriasis by:
- Reducing inflammation
- Regulating mediators of allergic reactions
- Regulating immune cell responses
- Increasing local circulation and reducing swelling
Acupuncture has also been shown to stimulate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system and thus reduce stress. Acupuncture affects the brain’s mood chemistry and may be helpful in treating depression associated with severe skin conditions.
Treating Eczema & Psoriasis
If you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, it is worth keeping a food and activity diary, as this may help you identify environmental triggers. If you have a chronic problem, it may be worth buying a chlorine filter for your shower or installing a ‘whole home’ under sink water filter to remove the chlorine from your water. Chlorine is a skin irritant.
If stress triggers your symptoms, then you may find that regular exercise helps keep your symptoms at bay.”
Judy Bowen-Jones Lic Ac BSc Hons Ac MBAcC
Research Fact Sheets
For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.