Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hydrocortisone Cream for Eczema

One of the things I have begun to do is researching not only the symptoms and possible causes of eczema, but also different treatments for the condition. Using hydrocortisone cream for eczema has been reported to be one of the most common treatments for this skin problem; I believe that it’s primarily due to the popularity of the use of steroids as an anti-inflammatory agent. See, hydrocortisone cream falls under the category of a much fancier term known as topical corticosteroids, which are basically synthetic substances that have anti-inflammatory properties. The main reason why people use hydrocortisone cream for eczema is because of its anesthetic qualities; it has been known to provide relief from the overall discomfort of eczema. It’s far from being a “cure” for eczema, but at least it can reduce some of the physical discomfort and irritation that you feel with eczema. It is important to note that hydrocortisone cream is also used for other skin conditions such as regular rashes, as well as for injuries such as burns or insect bites. The bottom line to the whole deal is that it’s supposed to help reduce swelling, irritation, and inflammation in the affected areas. The common application for topical hydrocortisone cream is to simply rub it into the skin until it is absorbed by the skin. It has been reported that absorption is facilitated easier when the skin is inflamed rather than on “regular” skin…I read that on one website and then asked myself “Why would you want to put this cream on normal skin anyway?” But…I guess that’s beside the point…I’m just trying to provide some thorough information here. A couple of the common brands of hydrocortisone cream that are out there are Enzone and Pramosone. The debate about potential side effects of using corticosteroids is definitely significant, and due to the fact that they metabolize mainly in the liver. Many doctors caution people who have had any degree of liver disease due to this very fact, and they also advise those who have had any type of blood disorder to use caution as well, because there is a faint possibility (not very likely according to the reports that I’ve read) that the medication could infiltrate the bloodstream as well. At any rate, if you use hydrocortisone cream and experience any type of dizziness or light-headedness, blurred or otherwise problematic vision, consistent headaches, or other unusual physical conditions such as weakness or even weight loss, you definitely need to seek the aid of a physician. Hydrocortisone cream is also very useful when it comes to treating baby eczema. I remember when our 2nd daughter was very little (she’s 16 months now), she had a fairly mild case of eczema, and we had heard of hydrocortisone cream, so being desperate for a solution, my wife & I tried it out. True indeed, it worked pretty well, but we had minor concerns about using too much of it due to the possible side effects it may have on her sensitive skin. Thankfully, she never suffered any kind of ill effects from the cream. Many parents have voiced concerns about the possibility of the cream thinning their child’s skin out, due to the fact that it is a steroid, but much of those concerns can be alleviated by choosing the right strength level of cream. Our doctor prescribed the 25% strength level for our cream, and it would do a great job of clearing up the eczema virtually instantaneously. Although it was very effective, we were still mindful of the dosage due to the fact that we didn’t want to “overload” our baby’s system in any way with synthetic substances, although the cream was topical and nothing that she had to ingest. Please always allow your doctor to prescribe the correct amount of hydrocortisone cream for eczema; you don’t want to push it and do more harm than good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eczema Rash

Man, am I ever familiar with the good ol’ eczema rash. What am I talking about? Well, I can only speak for myself on this one, although I do believe my experience is not an uncommon or rare one. Let me tell you a little bit about how it all got started: I was about 25 years old (I’m 34 now) and I was working a very stressful job with a boss who was basically the source of most of the stress. He was the kind of boss that had a very explosive temper, and would basically accuse you of things you didn’t do, as well as cuss you out in the process. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most functional work environment. Well, the stress of being in this position PLUS the stress of inadequate money to pay my month-to-month bills or advance financially really began to weigh on me. But, since I was not a very vocal person at the time (man, how things have changed), I would internalize a lot of the anger, frustration, anxiety, and even desperation that I felt while working there. One day I started noticing that I was breaking out with some type of rash on my inner thighs, right near the groin area (sorry for the graphic description). I had never had any type of skin problems before, so this was definitely a mystery to me. Not only did I start breaking out there, but the rash seemed to “spread” to my hip flexors and then my lower abdomen, right at belly-button level. The rashes were not all connected, so it wasn’t like one big rash, but they all started popping up at about the same time. I started running through my mental checklist of possible causes for the rash. I thought that it might be my undergarments, because I had just recently changed laundry detergents, so I thought that maybe my skin was reacting to the new detergent. So, I went back to the old detergent, but nothing really changed at that point. Same old itchy rash. I started to get real concerned, because again, I had never dealt with anything like this all through growing up. The rashes were reddish in color, with tons of tiny red bumps, and they would itch like doggone CRAZY. I would have to take frequent restroom breaks just to sit in there and scratch myself like a dog with fleas or something. This wasn’t the kind of itch you could just ignore; it felt like as if I was going to physically start twitching or bending or jerking or just doing something to stop the itching, if I didn’t directly scratch it. It got to the point where I was scratching it through my clothes, and by direct contact, so eventually I was scratching so much that I started breaking the skin.

Once this started happening, I would sit there and go “Okay, maybe I need to stop scratching so much.” This was pretty much a futile effort, and man I paid for it in the shower. It does NOT feel good when you have several open spots of raw skin being hit by hot water and soap. But, I really didn’t know of any lasting way to deal with it. So, I turned to lotion, which helped me a little bit, and I would make sure to apply the lotion as soon as I got out of the shower, to lock in some of the skin’s moisture. If I waited too long, my skin (especially in those areas) would dry out so bad that it would flake and be extremely irritating. But, I was working with what I could for the time being. After a good while, I started realizing that the stress I was going through was (in my mind, anyway) the main culprit to this skin problem I was dealing with. I mean, think about it: I never had these issues before, and all of a sudden they pop up when I’m stressed to the max? Coincidence? I think not! (LOL) I realized as time went on that my passive behavior was really at the root of my stress; I simply internalized everything and gave my frustration no outward expression, which resulted in my own body absorbing the “impact” of all that stress. Now I’m not advocating expressing every single negative emotion that you have, because that could end you up in jail for “going postal”, so to speak. But I learned that if I don’t allow some kind of outlet for my stress, and just suppress it or “bottle it up” inside of me, the stress doesn’t go away; it basically causes the body to “turn on itself”, so to speak, and begin “punishing” itself for the stress it’s feeling. This may sound a little on the verge of “psycho-babble”, but you know, I’m okay with that. This stuff really helped me when I learned it. I found that if you don’t give some kind of outlet to your stress, whether it means you go into another room and beat the crap out of a pillow (which I’ve done), or you go into a private place (i.e., closet or something) and just talk it out with yourself (even if it means you have to yell it out), you’ll develop a very unhealthy habit of allowing stress and the hormones that stress produces to simply coarse through your body like a raging river. This stress is real, and it produces real, physical effects on your body. Again, if you don’t vent your frustrations to some degree, even if it’s only to yourself or to God, the stress from those frustrations doesn’t go away; it’s simply contained within your own body but it’s still seeking some form of expression or outlet; and sometimes the “outlet” that it finds is some sort of physical ailment or…dare I say…a skin condition. No matter what the official name of the condition is—be it skin dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, or you-name-it, I’m almost positive that a large percentage of the cases are stress-related, dare I say more than any other factor. Hopefully this post about my experience with the ol’ eczema rash has shed at least a little light on the topic that maybe some of you haven’t considered before. Until next time…

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is Eczema Contagious?

One of the most common questions asked by people who have concerns about the eczema skin condition is “Is eczema contagious?” The short answer is “No”. I think I had mentioned this issue in one of my earlier posts about skin eczema because I had the same thoughts in my mind…since eczema is officially classified as a “skin disease”, when most people hear the word “disease”, they’re immediately thinking about whether or not it’s contagious, but I’m happy to report to all non-eczema-sufferers that you have nothing to worry about; you can’t “catch” eczema from someone who has it. Eczema is definitely a troublesome thing to the person who suffers with it, however; for the uninitiated, I’ll just break it down a little as far as what eczema is, and what it’s not: Basically, eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is an inflammation of the skin that shows itself in the form of rash outbreaks or itchy, dry, or even cracked and crusty skin. It normally shows up in “patches” on different areas of the body, but is primarily found near the “flexural” areas of the body, which is basically a fancy way to say any area where something flexes or bends, such as the knees, elbows, upper thighs near the groin, etc. Many people have dealt with patches of eczema on the back area, and other places like that as well. It is most commonly believed to be linked to some type of autoimmune dysfunction that causes the skin to overreact to perceived environmental or internal threats. I hope I’m right about that last statement…it’s basically a conglomeration of the different research I’ve done so far, but I do believe it to be accurate. Again, eczema is related to other inflammatory conditions such as hay fever or athsma. One of the treatments for eczema is actually very similar to what is given for asthma sufferers, which is a type of steroid to reduce inflammation. You know, for a long time I never understood why athletes wanted to use steroids because I didn’t understand the physiology behind it, but now that I’ve been studying these things, it makes a whole lot more sense. Basically, when a muscle is being overworked, it begins to get inflamed, and the inflammation reduces the performance potential of that muscle, because it can end up being fatigued. When you take steroids, it reduces the inflammation, thereby giving your muscles an almost “superhuman” endurance, allowing them to perform for sustained amounts of time without falling victim to inflammation as easily. Well, this translates over into treatments for other skin conditions or any type of inflammatory problem; many people take steroid-based drugs to prevent inflammation for such conditions as golfer’s elbow, or asthma, or any other thing where basically swelling and inflammation need to be reduced. It’s all making a whole lot more sense to me now, since I’ve started doing these studies on eczema and so forth. As far as causes go, nobody is fully aware of what the root cause is, although one major speculative suspect is stress and anxiety. I can personally attest to this (and if you read any of my past posts I talk even more about this in detail), because I had no issues whatsoever with eczema, and never even had it until I was about 25 years old and working for a boss that stressed me out to the absolute max. Only then did all of the skin rashes and outbreaks start appearing that eventually became eczema. I have since gotten WAY better, and I’m still going to talk more about that once I “assemble my case” a little better. But anyway, as for the question “Is eczema contagious?”, based on all the research I’ve done (which has been quite a bit), no medical evidence points in that direction.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eczema Skin Condition

This blog was created to basically be a place for me to post my findings on the eczema skin condition. For those of you who have read any of my previous posts, you know that I have been attempting to collect and post information regarding eczema, including the different types of symptoms, treatment options, and a description of my personal experience as well, since I have also dealt with this skin problem. One of the things that has been a reoccurring theme through the different posts I’ve done (although I can’t say it was fully an intentional thing) is the part that stress plays in the development of eczema, and how stress can literally exacerbate the eczema skin condition, although I’m basing this information more on my personal experience; I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of detailed, concrete, scientific data to back this position. I don’t feel too bad about it, though, because most of the info that I have read online pretty much says (in one way or another) that the causes of eczema are enigmatic at best. There seems to be several possible causes on the roster; one of them being adverse reactions to certain allergens. Eczema has often been mentioned in the same family with hay fever and asthma, primarily because these are inflammatory-type conditions that are triggered by an autoimmune response. I have noticed in my own life that when I would eat certain foods, such as nuts or soy products, it would seem to aggravate the eczema. I was trying to go the vegetarian route for a long time, and so I started buying all of the veggie burgers and soy burgers, which, by the way, I think are probably worse for you than just regular old red meat. Just look at the ingredient list for the average soy-based or veggie-based burger…a whole lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives with 20-syllable names…I doubt that’s any better for you than just eating a good old-fashioned steak. I know that there are probably some people that disagree with that statement, but hey, I’m just calling it how I see it. I know personally that while I was eating those products, I never felt fully “healthy”, but once I got back on regular beef and turkey, my energy level was boosted and I just felt more “solid” as a person. With all the veggie products I was losing weight rapidly to the point of being unhealthy, and it was just simply hard to keep weight on (for my body type anyway) without getting some real meat up in the mix. But anyway, back to the point…when I would eat those soy-based products especially, it would really begin to aggravate the eczema; I feel to this day that there were some type of ingredients in those foods that may have triggered an adverse response in my skin. One thing I believe I’ve learned over time is that when it comes to foods that benefit your skin and all otherwise, the more natural they are the better. The closer they are to how they exist in nature, the better. That’s why if you do eat beef, it’s important to eat Angus meat, or the other types of meat where the cows are not pumped with growth hormones and other chemicals to help in mass slaughter and mass-production. Whenever you can eat free-range chicken and other things like that, it helps tremendously, because the closer it is to how God originally created it, the better. (For the atheists out there, hope that doesn’t offend.)

So anyway, as far as the eczema skin condition goes (sorry for the long tangent), the primary classification of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which is a type of allergic disease, and as I mentioned earlier it falls loosely in the same category with other conditions that have inflammatory-type symptoms such as asthma and hay fever. The skin rashes produced by this type of eczema are reddish in color, and normally appear in “flexural” areas of the body such as the inside of the knees and elbows, and also on the buttocks near where the buttocks meets the upper leg (it’s really hard to tell where one ends and the other begins—LOL). Since I started studying these things, I realized that my type of condition was probably the most similar to atopic eczema, which is somewhat of the “plain vanilla” or “garden variety” eczema. There are other types of eczema that vary in their scope and severity, such as xerotic eczema, contact dermatitis, and dyshidrotic eczema, which we covered in a previous post. Although I initially created this post to be a general explanation of the eczema skin condition, I am excited about delving into some of the finer details of these different skin problems, now that I’m on my research kick. More to come soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Skin Eczema

Any discussion about skin eczema automatically catches my attention, having had first-hand experience with this skin problem. Eczema can definitely be an unruly beast at times. I know that in my personal experience, it would seem to be under control at times and not even visually discernible, but then on the wrong day, or with the wrong stressful situations in life’s background, all of a sudden those old red patches would show up again. I would most frequently get outbreaks right around the waistline, surrounding the belly button, and on the inner thighs. I also had a ravaging case of it on the back of my thighs, part of which spread all the way down to behind my knee and the top of my calf, but only on the right leg. How freakin’ weird is that??? One of the main things I remember was how sometimes the itching would come upon me so suddenly and so sharp that it literally felt like it took my breath. I know that may sound kind of strange, but I’m just telling you what my personal experience has been. Sometimes I would find myself daydreaming and just scratching away at those areas on my skin, and it was almost like a strange form of “relaxation”—it would give me time to think, albeit most of the time my thoughts were worries about whatever stressful situation I was dealing with on my job or what have you. I have heard that a lot of times eczema outbreaks can be linked to severe stress or life-altering circumstances, such as moving to a new state, getting married, having a child, or other major life events. Any type of new or “unfamiliar territory” can be grounds for an outbreak for people who have been prone to this skin condition in the past; well, it was for me at least. Sometimes the red bumps on the skin would feel like they were on fire; I would scratch them to the point of just having raw skin there…not a good thing at all, especially when you’re in the shower and the soap hits those spots. Those areas would frequently end up scabbing over, and by that time I would finally leave them alone long enough to heal up, and then the itching and scratching cycle would start again. It’s like I would lay off the scratching when I had done enough “damage”, but then get right back into it once it healed up. It became somewhat of a habitual cycle…go figure.

Eczema is officially classified as a skin “disease” although in my mind that seems to be a little bit of a misnomer, because it’s not contagious, nor can anyone “catch” it by coming into contact with your skin. I know that’s probably a narrow-minded set of criteria to say that the word “disease” is a misnomer for eczema, but in my mind it just works that way…again, go figure. You know how it is…a lot of times you go through life with your own made-up definitions or your own interpretations of what a word means, but you’ve never taken the time to actually look it up for yourself and find out the “real deal”. I decided to start doing some actual research online regarding eczema, and I’m telling you, after seeing some of the pictures of what eczema looks like, and some of the more severe cases that are out there, I don’t feel as bad about it at all. I have shown some of those pictures I found in previous posts; they are quite disconcerting to a viewer who may have never seen or known how far-reaching the effects of eczema can be. The skin rashes, the itchy skin, and the other symptoms of eczema are definitely no picnic, as I can personally attest to. On the technical side, eczema is also known as dermatitis, which is basically any type of inflammation of the epidermis, also known as the outermost layer of skin. In more severe cases, the skin can start bleeding, oozing and cracking, but in the milder cases (like that of my own—for the most part anyway), the skin just basically turns red, gets a little tougher to the touch, and develops small raised bumps that basically look like a rash of a sort. The jury is still out as to the actual causes of eczema, but I can personally attest to the fact that I believe stress has a whale of a lot to do with it. I will be going into some more details about the possible causes of skin eczema, but this post here has gotten WAY too long. Will resume later.

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