What is eczema?
Eczema (eg-zuh-MUH) is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become irritated that causes dryness, itching, and redness; it sometimes progresses to weeping, crusting, excoriation, and flaking.
While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. When an irritant or an allergen from outside or inside the body “switches on” the immune system, it produces inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the symptoms common to most types of eczema.
There are several different types of eczema that you should know about:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic eczema
- Nummular eczema
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Stasis dermatitis
Though there are several distinct types of eczema, it is possible to have more than one type at a time.
All types of eczema cause itching and redness, but some may also cause your skin to blister, “weep,” or peel.
They are also some skin disorders that may look like eczema include psoriasis, dry skin of hypothyroidism, scabies, contact dermatitis (such as poison ivy), impetigo, and fungal dermatoses.
A tendency to eczema is very likely to be inherited.
If one parent has eczema, hay fever, or asthma, there is a 50% chance that the child will have one or more of these related disorders (which physicians refer to as the “atopic triad”). Samuel Hahnemann, the Father of Homeopathy, recognized both the depth of the problem and the inherited tendency of eczema back in the early 1800s.
Not just skin disease
So, in reality, eczema is not “just a skin disease”: it is an immune system disorder characterized by an over-reaction of an allergic nature. An allergy at the level of the lungs is called asthma; at the eye level it’s allergic conjunctivitis; and at the skin level it’s eczema.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an immune system reaction to a foreign substance that comes into the body through the nose, mouth, skin, etc. Typical allergens related to eczema include dairy, wheat, tree pollen, pet dander, dust, and mold. When the allergen molecule first enters the body, the immune system recognizes it as foreign and records a memory of the substance. In an allergy-prone individual, subsequent exposures to this allergen cause a progressively more severe immune response—an attempt to rid the body of the “invader.” Inflammation-producing cells come up the skin, where they release chemicals that cause itching and redness. Further damage occurs when the person scratches and rubs the affected area. The allergic response may not occur until hours or even days after exposure to the allergen, however, making identification of the offending substances difficult.
Conventional vs. homeopathic approach
Because conventional medicine views eczema as an aberrant dysfunction of the immune mechanism, treatment focuses on suppression of the immune response using topical and oral steroids, oral antihistamines, and topical anti-inflammatory drugs. While the drugs are used, the rash improves; but when they’re stopped, the eczema returns. In the case of children, the hope is that the child will eventually “grow out” of the disease.
Homeopathic medicine takes an opposite approach.
By stimulating the body to move into a more healthy state (through the use of a homeopathic remedy), the over-response of the immune system may moderate and the eczema should improve. The likelihood of improvement in eczema is fairly good because the body is relatively better at moderating an over-responsive state, than it is at improving a state that results from a deficient action.
According to homeopathic theory (i.e., Hering’s Law of Cure), the first symptoms to improve during the healing process will be those at the deepest level of the body (e.g., vital organs, mental/emotional function); the last symptoms to improve will be those at the most superficial level (e.g., skin, extremities). In other words, if treatment is successful, we would expect to see a patient’s overall health improve at the deepest levels either before or as their eczema improves. When the eczema begins to heal, we might expect to see improvement first on the face, then on the trunk, and last on the extremities.
Conversely, homeopaths view it as a decline in health if an eczema patient is treated (perhaps with steroids) and their eczema improves or resolves, but they subsequently develop a deeper problem, such as asthma. Despite the improvement in their original symptoms, the person’s overall health is clearly worse.
Healing not always easy
Of course many patients with allergic tendencies arrive at the homeopath’s door with multiple problems—perhaps sinusitis and asthma, in addition to eczema. With homeopathic treatment, they may have dramatic improvement in their asthma or general allergies, while their eczema temporarily worsens. Overall, their health is dramatically better; but the part of their problem that is easily seen by their friends and family now appears significantly worse. Unfortunately, sometimes these patients lose heart in the course of homeopathic treatment and abandon it, preferring to live with a deeper illness for the sake of vanity or their immediate convenience.
Some patients who can’t bear the temporary worsening of their eczema symptoms opt to use suppressive therapies in conjunction with homeopathic treatment (such as topical steroids), as a way of moderating the movement of symptoms toward the surface.
Individuals who have used suppressive therapies such as steroids over a long time period may experience significant worsening of their eczema during homeopathic treatment as the body reacts against what may have been years of immuno-suppression
In all cases of eczema, remember that the individual has the disorder as a result of sensitivity and over-reactivity.