Learning & Resource Center Articles
Acupuncture and the Treatment of Eczema
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Eczema is a skin disorder resulting in rough, red and itchy patches on the body. In addition, there can be a host of other symptoms and complications that can greatly vary between individuals. For some, small blisters may be present, that when scratched, may bleed or ooze fluid and then crust over when dry. For others, a persistent need to scratch itchy skin may cause anxiety and sleep problems. Other symptoms of eczema include nighttime itching, red or brown skin discoloration, bumps that ooze fluid and then harden when dry, scaly-looking, thick, cracked or dry skin, skin inflammation or sensitive, uncomfortable skin sensations. Complications that may arise from the symptoms of eczema include asthma, allergies, skin infections, insomnia, emotional problems or eye problems
For many, this skin condition first presents in early childhood, before age 5. As a matter of fact, according to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, eczema is also known as 'skin asthma.' This is due to the high correlation between eczema and the subsequent development of asthma in children. In the Western medical tradition, eczema is also called atopic dermatitis, and it is a sub-category of dermatitis.
Usually, eczema is considered a chronic condition as it can take a long time to resolve. There may be long periods of remission, when the skin shows no symptoms. However, in the presence of a trigger, such as pollen or dust, or after a stressful life event, symptoms of atopic dermatitis may come back. Other potential triggers for eczema include dry skin, bacteria and viruses, stress, excess sweat, hot and humid environmental conditions, wool, certain chemical cleansers and soaps, smoke/air pollution and certain foods like eggs, milk, wheat gluten or peanuts.
Due to the red and itchy nature of skin affected by eczema, acupuncture and Oriental medicine largely defines this condition as one related to heat. This manifestation of heat on the skin may stem from an internal imbalance (e.g. a weakened immune system), an allergic reaction (e.g. peanut allergy) or a combination of both these internal and external factors. Each patient will have a different set of circumstances, which a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine will have to investigate during the appointment.
According to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, there are many reasons why the body may succumb to a heat condition and lead to the manifestation of eczema symptoms. Strong or prolonged emotions such as anger, rage or jealousy may contribute to a pathological build-up of heat. Overworking may also be a contributing factor, as this may interfere with other activities such as exercise and things that bring joy and pleasure into one's life.
At the time of your acupuncture and Oriental medicine visit, mention any emotional or behavioral difficulties you feel may be related to your eczema. This way, your practitioner can choose an acupuncture treatment plan that will address all of your physical and emotional symptoms. In preparation for your appointment, list any medications you are taking and, if possible, keep a diary detailing your symptoms of eczema, such as date of occurrence and duration of symptoms.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.