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The itchy and scratcy show: excema help please!
March 3, 2006 2:56 AM   Subscribe

My excema is flaring up. Any suggestions for relief? (Dietary, behavioural, "alternative therapies" or medical suggestions welcome). Various circumstances conspire to keep me away from the doc for a few weeks but i'm definitely planning a visit once things get back on track.

It's been something I've had mildly all my life and it's only been bad enough to medicate (emulsifying ointment etc) once or twice when I was a kid. It flares up when I'm stressed, when I use biological washing powder, and it pretty much completely went away when I was vegan for 2 years. Right now, I'm trying to deal with the stress aspect but that's the part I've least control over so I'm looking for other suggestions. I'm planning to cut out dairy, but if anyone has any other suggestions (OTC creams, etc.) please do let me know before I rip my arms and legs to pieces!
posted by handee to Health & Fitness (31 answers total)
 
hydrocortizone from the chemists?
posted by twine42 at 3:27 AM on March 3, 2006


Try Dream Cream from Lush. It keeps my excema under control.
posted by k8t at 3:45 AM on March 3, 2006


hydrocortizone from the chemists?
yes, go to your local pharmacy now and get some hydrocortizone ointment. my eczema outbreaks usually go away in 1-2 days after using it and being good (not scratching).

after it goes away, you can keep it from coming back by keeping the problem areas moisturized -- oatmeal lotion is good for this, but I think any basic moisturizing lotion should work. (if you don't mind it, vaseline isn't a bad idea when you are really really dry.)
posted by puffin at 3:49 AM on March 3, 2006


Hydrocortizone is the only OTC thing that's going to do any real good. And I should know because I've been itching like a motherfucker my whole life.

Use it in conjunction with Eucerin (which has urea in it) for really nice results.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:19 AM on March 3, 2006


Try taking fish oil (or flax seed oil if you're a veggie like me). This has worked wonders for myself and my mother.
posted by hazyjane at 4:48 AM on March 3, 2006


I second the oil capsules. It helps your body handle stress. As a bonus it will also help you from catching every cold that comes by. Black currant oil is recommended by Dr. Weil.
posted by kgn2507 at 5:00 AM on March 3, 2006


Here's the advice I would give to anyone with an inflammatory skin condition:

Try reducing the overactive inflammatory response in your skin. Reduce levels of pro-inflammatory fatty acids in the skin by avoiding peanuts and organ meats, and by supplementing with the delta-5 desaturase inhibitor sesamin (1-2 g daily).

It's fairly cheap, and at worst, it won't do anything.

One relevant PubMed citation
posted by rxrfrx at 5:26 AM on March 3, 2006


PS my suggestion is related to the fish/flax suggestion, but sesamin is a somewhat more potent and direct way of decreasing the production of inflammatory FAs.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:28 AM on March 3, 2006


Tanning salon. It works.
posted by jon_kill at 6:12 AM on March 3, 2006


Second Mayor Curley; my doctor recommended that I moisturize with Eucerin cream (not Eucerin lotion -- get the stuff that comes in a tub). It's like smearing Crisco on yourself, but it works wonders.

It helps keep my excema in check if I gently exfoliate a few times a week. Taking one of those netted plastic loofah things and rubbing some body wash on my legs in the morning clears away the dead skin cells and makes my outbreaks less severe.

on preview: tanning salon? premature wrinkles and skin cancer are not a cure for excema.
posted by junkbox at 6:23 AM on March 3, 2006


my solutions...

Make sure you use detergents without dyes/perfumes. Use the ones with the label "Free" on them. Like "Tide Free" or "Bounce Free." The same goes for dryer sheets.

Take a shower, but make sure that the water is a little cold before you get out. You can start off your shower with the water hot, but the last minute or two has to be somewhat cold. After you dry yourself off (patting with the towel, not rubbing. never rubbing), rub some Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion on the parts where you get itchy.

prescription-wise, diprolene works wonders for me.

if your having trouble with your lips, i suggest plain ol' Vaseline Lip Therapy.
posted by lotsofno at 6:44 AM on March 3, 2006


Are there any more powerful or permanent treatments for excema? I think I'm developing it on my face (an itchy rash has become more and more prevalent on my face/forehead) and its 1) unattractive and 2) irritating.

I've tried exfoliating but it only makes a difference for the rest of that day. I've tried moisturizing but that makes the rash itself look more prominent, although it solves the problem of flaky skin showing up on my face.
posted by mhuckaba at 7:04 AM on March 3, 2006


Mhuckba—Elocon is a pretty strong corticol steroidal cream/ointment that bats whatever ezcema I have (it's chronic for me on my eyelids and behind my ears. yes, the eyelids. it burns like hell right now.) right out of the park. My doctor gave me the non-steroidal Elidel, and that stuff is absolute shit. It works, but it takes four-five times as long, and provides no instant relief. Elocon was amazing for me, because I could apply it and I'd stop hurting or itching, instantly.

For large areas, they might not prescribe a strong steroid, but there's always the nastiness that is Prednisone... I'd stay away from that, if at all possible.

For about a year, I had ezcema on over 50% of my body, including my inner thighs, arms, back, stomach, scalp, ears, eyelids, and lower legs. It would constantly itch, until I'd scratch. I'd scratch it down to the bare skin, so that all that was left was white flesh with cracks, through which blood and pus came. Until it scabbed, lather, rinse, repeat.

I swear to you, the only thing that cured me was a homeopathic remedy, despite my not believing in any such bullocks. The homepath guy prescribed a specific remedy of graphite, taken in tiny sugar pellet form. The first recommendation of a different solution didn't work, but the graphite cleared it up within days. From nine months of agony to hardly an itch was rather impressive.

That's an ultra-severe case, though. Dermatologists will prescribe steroid creams, since they're the most effective. But they won't like to, because they can have some side effects, like thinning your skin. (Fortunately, I use it so rarely, I don't have to worry about see-through eyelids or any such problems.) Try Elidel, but don't expect magic. Elocon worked amazingly well.
posted by disillusioned at 7:25 AM on March 3, 2006


And for non-prescription relief, Aquaphor ointment (consistency of vaseline) works amazingly well, at least at night, when you don't have to go out.

For scalp-based ezcema, I use Beta-Val, since it's an alcohol based ointment with an applicator tip that evaporates away in seconds.

Aquaphor's expensive, but available at any decent drugstore, and somewhat related (IIRC) to Eucerin.
posted by disillusioned at 7:26 AM on March 3, 2006


The only over-the-counter lotion that has ever provided any relief for me is Cetaphil, preferably the "Therapeutic Hand Cream with Shea Butter" formula. It was on sale the other day for a very low price, so I don't know if they are discontinuing that formulation, but all their products help immensely.

Also, avoid hot showers and hot water on the affected area. That flares mine like nothing else.

And get some sun on it, if you can. The sun heals it quickly.
posted by agregoli at 7:28 AM on March 3, 2006


Hello eczema buddies! I've had it all my life and all over my body. It's always better when I get some sun and when the cold weather goes away. The temp went up to 81 here yesterday and I could already feel the difference. I use Aquaphor after every shower to retain moisture and throughout the day on my hands. I have been prescribed Elidel for mild flare ups on my face and it works wonders. I use triamcinalone for the rest of my body. Nothing ever completely clears it up but it keeps it manageable.

I also want to second (third?) avoiding dyes and perfumes like the plague. The only air freshener I can use in my house is that concentrated citrus spray. My laundry detergent and dryer sheets are all "Free" kinds. No cologne for the significant other either. Nothing gets me going like a person with an overpowering douse of cologne or perfume.

Good luck. Nothing makes a day suck more than when your eczema flares. Email if you wanna chat more. It always helps me to talk with someone who knows what I'm going through.
posted by chiababe at 8:23 AM on March 3, 2006


I have chronic excema around my eyes, nose and mouth. Actually ON my lips and eyelids. I tried homeopathy, acupuncture, special lotion, vaseline, and a few other things. No relief.

The only thing that has worked long-term is Elidel cream. Yes, it takes a little longer to start working. But you can use it daily for a long time, unlike hydrocortisone cream. Elidel creates a slight suppression of your immune response in a localised area, and does not have the side effects of steroids. Other than that, I only use Cetaphil soap, NO lotion, and no make-up whatsoever. (If I wear lipstick for a special occasion, I pay for days.)
posted by shifafa at 8:25 AM on March 3, 2006


I wash with Cetaphil, and rub myself over with Cetaphil cream from chin to toes twice a day. I use a tea tree oil shampoo with no sodium lauryl sulfate (harsh detergent aggravates the dryness) and creamy tea tree oil conditioner to keep my scalp from crawling off. I've recently started following the advice of Leslie Baumann, from her book "The Skin Type Solution," and hope soon to have struck the balance between having enough moisturizer to keep the skin around my nose from flaking and peeling, but little enough to keep me from breaking out. It's been helpful so far. Maybe you should check it out too.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:34 AM on March 3, 2006


one thing you probably noticed is we all recommended different medications over other ones. shifafa recommends Elidel, while disillusioned got better results with Elocon. i've tried both, and neither were comparable to the results i experienced with Diprolene. you will probably have to experiment to see what works best for you, though doctors don't like you regularly using a whole mess of steroid creams like Diprolene and Elocon.

though I suggested Aveeno's lotion, Cetaphil is also very good and comes highly recommended by my aunt, who heads some sort of Eczema organization in Ohio. i just use the Aveeno lotion because of the "cooling menthol" effect it has. it makes you think it's actually working, plus it's soothing.

you'll really have to experiment to see what works best for you.
posted by lotsofno at 8:37 AM on March 3, 2006


Also, I avoid fabric softener, anything heavily scented, and any skin product that has alcohol in it.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:38 AM on March 3, 2006


Another vote for Elidel. It takes a few days but works fine for me. Plus the non-steroidal quality was important to me. For moisturizing, I've used Cetaphil before, and nowadays I use milder, less sticky Curel.

I'd had eczema for a long time on my hands and the backs of my neck, ears and knees. After several years of heavy flare-ups, it has now quieted down + is limited to the backs of my knees + bits of my hands.

The breakthrough for me was Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine. There's a Chinese doctor near Boston that I saw during the summer of 2004 for weekly acupuncture sessions and daily doses of (predictably foul-tasting) hermal meds. As he had warned me, at first my eczema got severly worse, covering nearly all of my body; the way he put it, my body was pushing the poison out. Then after a couple of weeks of hell, it slowly started fading, and soon the eczema cleared up amazingly. For the first time in many years, I was completely free of any itching anywhere.

I stopped the treatment after a few months due to work-related scheduling issues. Since then, except for the occasional outbreaks in small areas related to stress or excessive sweating, I've been itch-free.

If anyone is interested in the Chinese doctor, let me know here, and I'll look up the info again. It's been a few years, so I don't remember it offhand.
posted by shortfuse at 8:53 AM on March 3, 2006


I’ve been suffering from seasonal eczema my whole life, and the only topical solution that both relieves and heals the eczema is a product called Protopic. It’s by prescription only, unfortunately – but it’s relatively new to the market, and works wonders.

Two negatives with Protopic. One, it only comes as an ointment, and two, “long-term safety of topical calcineurin inhibitors, beyond one year of non-continuous use has not been established. Although a causal relationship has not been established, rare cases of malignancy have been reported in patients treated with topical calcineurin inhibitors, including Protopic Ointment.”

My experience with steroid creams is that they relieve the itch, but don’t cure the outbreak. Protopic does both.
posted by dvottero at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2006


I used Protppic for a while and it made my face turn extremely red when I had even one sip of alcohol. Not itchy at all just red and hot like you've been drinking a little too much. It's effectiveness was also hit or miss for me.
posted by chiababe at 9:27 AM on March 3, 2006


Protopic cleared up my eczema, but made me itch so intensely I couldn't sleep the nights I put it on. It was actually one of the most painful things I've ever experienced, and I couldn't help scratching it. It did make the eczema clear up, once the extra eczema from the scratching went away, but the immune suppressant, plus the open skin meant that I got a series of pretty serious staph infections. I also got the red skin thing chiababe describes.

Now my eczema isn't so bad, and I use a OTC steroid cream when I need to, plus twice daily coatings of Palmer's unscented cocoa butter lotion. It's really been flaring up the last couple of weeks though, so I'm going to have to get more serious about it.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:46 AM on March 3, 2006


Water makes my eczema worse, especially hot showers. I usually put vaseline on my face and other problem spots BEFORE i take a shower - that seems to keep it under control. i get eczema on my face pretty badly, so other than showering, i actually don't wash my face and i never use any soap or moisturiziers on my face.
posted by gt2 at 12:14 PM on March 3, 2006


FYI, both Elidel and Protopic have recently been forced by the FDA to add a warning about possible cancerous cells developing after use.
posted by IndigoSkye at 1:22 PM on March 3, 2006


These threads also provide helpful advice:
1, 2, 3, 4
posted by invisible ink at 1:32 PM on March 3, 2006


Also, my eczema used to flare up quite a bit when I was younger and it made me miserable, hope you feel better soon!
posted by invisible ink at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2006


This page from a skincare guru is also helpful. Of course, she recommends some of her own products (just ignore the first paragraph), but she also demystifies some of the more confusing terminology surrounding eczema.
posted by invisible ink at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2006


Yeah, eczema isn't any fun.

I've found that I can make my mine go completely away if I moisturize with Curel Extreme Care (red bottle) every day right after showering. Give it a shot, it works surprisingly well.
posted by Drunken_munky at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2006


Once I have it, salacylic acid helps make it look less crappy, followed by a lemony-fresh smelling (oh well) application of burt's bees cuticle cream.

I'm blessed enough not to have it on my face, though.
posted by arrhn at 5:45 PM on March 3, 2006


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