Eczema: TCM insights on eczema
What is eczema?
Eczema is a recurrent itchy skin condition where patches of skin become inflamed, red, cracked, dry, scaly, and sometimes blistering.
Intense and persistent itch from eczema creates an itch-scratch cycle which results in the thickening of the skin that makes it dry and scaly. If an open sore or cracked skin is created from a scratch, germs, viruses, and allergens may enter the skin which lead to infection. Eczema usually appears around the elbows, knees, neck, chest, and sometimes even eyelids.
It can easily flare-up by triggers such as irritants, allergies, infections, temperature and sweat; among all the triggers, stress stands out as a more common trigger.
Eczema not only affects a person physically but also emotionally, making one feel frustrated and depressed while the skin’s appearance gradually chips away one’s confidence and self-esteem. If eczema flares up in the middle of the night, it can greatly affect sleep and ability to function well the next day. People with a family history of asthma, rhinitis and eczema are more likely to get it though some may outgrow it.
What causes eczema?
The causes of Eczema can be genetically related, it can also be developed through external or internal trigger(s).
A complex interplay between the immune system, genetics, triggers, and stress may cause the body to be overreactive and sensitive, giving rise to inflammation of the skin.
Doctors often prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids, emollients, or immune-modulating agents to treat eczema. Corticosteroids are one of the most effective treatment for eczema. However, the prolonged, frequent, and inappropriately use of corticosteroids may cause adverse effects such as thinning skin, stretch marks, immunosuppression, relapse and adrenal gland suppression.
TCM may come in to be a supplement or, in some cases, replacement for western medicine for the long-term treatment of eczema.
How TCM sees eczema?
Eczema falls into the Chinese “shi chuang”湿疮 category.
From TCM point of view, the causes of eczema are typically hereditary, improper diet, or weakness in spleen-stomach that give rise to pathogenic factors in the form of “wind”, “damp” and “heat”.
These factors may be external in origin or may come from within the body itself to affect the organs, especially the lung (respiratory) and spleen-stomach(digestion). Both works very closely with the skin and contributes to the skin quality, be it wilting or thriving.
Beside pathogenic factors, the internal lack or deficiency in substances such as “blood” or “Yin” may also diminishes the quality of the skin, exposing it to higher risk of eczema outbreak.
How Chinese Medicine works in treating eczema?
TCM has its own unique way to diagnose and treat a person.
The approach is holistic, and the diagnostic theory based on syndrome differentiation enables physician to give a comprehensive analysis by determining the current overall status of the person and the current pathological changes.
Chinese Medicine can work by diminishing the unwanted pathogenic factors such as wind and heat, improving circulation to reduce Qi-blood stagnation, removing dampness and toxins, or reducing the deficiency in blood or fluid to improve the nutritional flow to the skin and various organs.
The herbs may be adjusted to utilize a direct or indirect pathway to improve the body condition and it will be based on the current constitution type and the disharmony pattern observed within the body.
How Acupuncture works in treating Eczema?
Acupuncture modulates the body’s immune system and strengthens the body’s resistance against pathogenic factors to help the body better cope with an unfavorable environment without side effects.
It works by unblocking or stimulating the meridian system which regulates the Qi, blood, and vital substances flow.
This will in turn help modulate the organ systems and bring the body back into balance. Acupuncture treatment for skin will help influence the metabolism and development of skin tissues to provide a healthier, thriving skin.
Acupuncture can also modulate stress as a trigger by inducing relaxation and unblocking the flow of Qi that give rise to it.
How do I start TCM treatment for eczema?
1. Let the physician help you understand your body better.
2. Physician will assess your body constitution while understanding your current skin condition (including severity and its complications).
3. Physician will formulate a comprehensive TCM treatment plan that while considering your lifestyle.
4. Physician will also advise you on nutrition from TCM viewpoint and how to cope with eczema.