Eczema is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. Many factors may trigger eczema symptoms and these can vary from person to person. Some eczema sufferers may find symptoms become more acute when the seasons change, for example.
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There is no cure for eczema but there are numerous approaches that may help to alleviate symptoms.
If you are looking for natural treatments, research has identified some promising alternatives.
According to research conducted by the National Eczema Association (NEA), acupressure may alleviate symptoms.
Acupressure is a massage therapy technique based on the theories of ancient Chinese Medicine that uses finger pressure at specific spots on the body called acupressure points, which are also known as acupuncture points or acupoints.
The NEA was initially drawn to the idea of applying the technique to eczema patients after seeing positive results for similar studies involving acupuncture.
One of the studies involved patients suffering from a disease that triggers failure of the kidneys (organs that filter out toxins in the body).
When the kidneys aren’t functioning correctly, people get itchy to the point of wishing themselves dead.
Acupuncture was used to stimulate one point on the arm called Large Intestine 11 in one group of patients.
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A placebo treatment, which did not stimulate a significant point on the body, was used in another group.
The researchers found that the patients who underwent the acupuncture treatment reported a significant reduction in itch, while the placebo group reported no significant change.
“We wanted to try this technique with eczema patients, but since many of my patients are needle-phobic, we decided to try acupressure instead,” explains a researcher from the NEA.
The researchers directed 15 patients with moderate to severe eczema to massage the Large Intestine 11 spot using small titanium beads for three-minute sessions three times a week for four weeks.
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They found that four of the patients who performed acupressure got significantly better whereas no one in the non-acupressure group saw improvements.
“When we looked at whether itchy sensations decreased, along with the severity of overall eczema, two of the people who did not receive the acupressure treatment got worse, whereas no one in the acupressure group got worse — and five of the people getting the acupressure treatment got better versus only two in the other group, explains one researcher.
These results were enough to be statistically significant even though the study was small.
Do you need the equipment to see results?
According to the study researchers, beads are not required for the treatment: many of my patients reported beneficial results from massaging with their fingers.
What are the main treatments for eczema?
According to the NHS, the main treatments are:
Emollients (moisturisers) – used every day to stop the skin becoming dry
topical corticosteroids – creams and ointments used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups
Other treatments include:
- Topical pimecrolimus or tacrolimus for eczema in sensitive sites not responding to simpler treatments
- Antihistamines for severe itching
- Bandages or special body suits to allow the body to heal underneath
- More powerful treatments offered by a dermatologist (skin specialist)
“As well as the treatments mentioned above, there are things you can do yourself to help ease your symptoms and prevent further problems,” explains the NHS.
One simple self-help tip is to resist scratching the affected area.
The NHS explains: “Deep scratching also causes bleeding and increases the risk of your skin becoming infected or scarred.”
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