What is Eczema?
Eczema (or dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, swollen and painful. Eczema symptoms can vary from a mild rash or dry skin, to a more severe condition that can last a long time. There is a strong family link associated with eczema and it is often seen in those who suffer with other atopic conditions such as asthma or allergies.
Here in New Zealand we have relatively high rates of eczema compared to the rest of the world. Around 15% of our tamariki (children) and 9% of adolescents suffer with some sort of eczema. Many children with eczema appear to grow out of the condition, however around 20-40% of those affected will continue to experience eczema symptoms as adults.
What Causes Eczema?
Healthy skin acts as a barrier and a filter to retain moisture and to protect the body from the external environment.
Skin cells that are affected by eczema or dermatitis unfortunately do not provide that same barrier function. When skin loses the ability to act as an effective barrier this can lead to loss of moisture and dryness. Allergens, irritants and bacteria can enter the skin resulting in inflammation and infection; in other words ‘eczema’.
See the difference below between normal skin and skin of an eczema sufferer. The normal healthy skin has a tight lock between skin cells which acts as a barrier, whereas the path for allergens to penetrate the skin of an eczema sufferer is shown clearly in the circle on the right.
Why Do We Get Eczema?
Eczema has a strong genetic link and is often observed within families. This genetic link has been pinpointed down to a few specific genes:
- Genes that code for skin structural proteins, such as FLG and SPINK5
- Genes that code for parts of the immune system, such as interleukin IL4, IL5, and IL13, which promote allergic inflammation
There are many environmental factors that can cause a flare of eczema symptoms. These are also referred to as triggers.
- Soaps, detergents and cleaning products
- Wool or synthetic fabrics
- Skin infections
- Emotional stress
- Dust mites, pollen, moulds
- Certain foods
How Can We Treat Eczema?
Unfortunately there is no cure for eczema. The best we can do is manage the condition by keeping our skin hydrated, nourished and healthy so it can act as an effective barrier. We can also do our best to avoid eczema triggers such as the ones listed above.
Exploring hemp and other natural remedies for the treatment of eczema is an option for babies, children and adults of all ages.
We recommend trying our Hemp Seed Oil Healing Balm or Organic Hemp Seed Moisturising Serum.
For more on how to manage your eczema take a look at our Eczema Management Blog.