Two chameleons with red knees.

The symptoms of eczema often have triggers, such as foods, soaps/detergents, stress and even the weather.

Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated skin. It is a chronic condition in most people. There are different types of eczema, each with has its own characteristics and best methods for management.

Allergic contact eczema results from allergic sensitisation by contact with a variety of substances, such as nickel, chrome, or rubber. When these are re-encountered, an area of eczema will appear at the site of contact between 24 and 96 hours later. Foods may be responsible for contact eczema, and food handlers and eczema sufferers must be aware of this possibility.

Eczema with no obvious external cause is called endogenous eczema. Sufferers in this group include those with a hereditary predisposition to develop allergy, which is called atopic eczema. Such people have an excessive antibody response to common substances (antigens) and may suffer other allergic conditions, such as hay fever or asthma.  In babies, this type of eczema often starts on cessation of breast feeding, and it has been shown that many children can be helped if they avoid those foods which are commonly found to be allergy-provoking, such as cow’s milk and eggs.

It is important to note that most standard treatments are not directed at the cause of the eczema, but aim at suppressing it. In doing so, the body’s own defence mechanisms can also be weakened, and the skin can be irreversibly thinned and damaged. The weakened skin may then react to more antigens due to the reduced protective barrier.

Symptoms of eczema

The familiar rash of eczema (red, itchy flaking of the skin, particularly of the folds of a limb) affects approximately 5% of the population. The NHS website states, “About 1 in 5children in the UK has atopic eczema.”

The location and intensity of the symptoms may vary significantly.

Common symptoms include:

  • dry, sensitive skin
  • intense itching
  • red, inflamed skin
  • recurring rash
  • scaly areas
  • oozing and crusting

Identifying the causes

At Breakspear Medical, as a starting point, we believe that every eczema sufferer needs an individual dietary assessment, as different substances provoke reactions in different people, and we have a variety of laboratory tests available that will help to identify the provocant (the item that is provoking the reaction), if it is not already known. We will address the problem of the cause by trying to remove it, or by altering the response of the body. This approach may be time-consuming, but it will often yield good results without drugs or the misery of itching, broken skin.

Treatment of eczema

Your treatment plan may include exclusion diets, food challenges, 24-hour urine elements analysis to provide more information on nutritional status, nutritional supplements and avoidance of dyes and salicylates, which can exacerbate eczema.

As well, we may recommend using low-dose immunotherapy (LDI) to address common allergies/sensitivities to things such as dust mites, dog and cat dander, food allergy and chemical sensitivities, yeast/fungi and pollens. For over 3 decades, Breakspear Medical has been using this technique to address reactions to foods, inhalants and chemicals.

Costs

From determining the type of eczema, to dietary changes and testing and treating the cause, each eczema patient requires a different set of tests and an individualised treatment programme.  After your first appointment, you will be given a detailed estimate, with your recommended treatment programme in detail with all the costs, which will be explained to you by your Patient Liaison Officer.

On the day of your appointment or anytime afterward, if you have any specific questions regarding prices, estimates and treatment programmes, please contact a Patient Liaison Officer, by phone 01442 261 333 ext 293, or email: liaison@breakspearmedical.com

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