What Is Eczema and How Can You Treat it Naturally?

An inflammatory skin disorder, eczema symptoms include irritation, itchiness, and redness. Here we answer the question, “what is eczema?” and give you numerous eczema home treatment options.

what is eczema?

People with eczema have skin patches that tend to be itchy, dry, red, swollen, or sore.

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Do you or your child have red, rough, dry skin that is irritated and itchy? These could be signs of eczema, and inflammatory skin disorder. If you have ever wondered, “What is eczema?” here is a list of eczema symptoms and eczema home treatment options to get you started in finding relief.

What Is Eczema? Definition of an Inflammation Issue

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. Primarily impacting young children, eczema is considered an allergic disorder, as it occurs when the immune system mounts an attack when exposed to minute amounts of things like dust, pollen, or foods, which are normally considered harmless. Most people develop eczema within the first five years of life, often within the first year. Although for many, the disease goes away before adolescence, some cases of eczema continue into adulthood, or can even begin during that time.[1] 

Eczema Symptoms

People with eczema have skin patches that tend to be itchy, dry, red, swollen, or sore. This kind of rash can become dried out, crusty, and scaly over time, and it may blister, crack, or peel. Most often, these symptoms occur on the hands or feet, inside the elbow, at the back of the knees, behind the ears, or on the cheeks.

Natural Treatment for Eczema

Typical treatment of eczema requires topical corticosteroid use. However, there are many natural alternatives to try first.

  1. Avoid triggers. First and foremost, avoiding triggers that might make your eczema worse is key. Many people are sensitive to wool clothing, hot water (like from a bath), stress, certain foods, and some food additives.[1,2] Identifying triggers and reducing exposure to anything that aggravates your symptoms is important in preventing outbreaks.
  2. Keep moisturized. One of the best ways to prevent eczema is to reduce the dryness of your skin using skin moisturizers or emollients.[1] For a list of effective dry skin remedies, read more here. This will help reduce the urge to itch and lessen the risk of infection.
  3. Take a probiotic. A wealth of research supports the use of probiotics in eczema care. Studies show children who take probiotics like Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus fermentum have significantly reduced eczema symptoms compared to placebo. Results are seen anywhere from one to three months after beginning probiotic use.[3,4] Lactobacillus species seem to be most effective, while Bifidobacterium species don’t seem to have an effect.[5]
  4. Use evening primrose oil. Many studies have found evening primrose oil to be an effective eczema home treatment. Evening primrose oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is a compound often found to be depleted in eczema patients. GLA supports the anti-inflammatory response, and can help to decrease symptoms of eczema.[6] One study suggests the optimum oral dose of GLA to be 160-320 mg for children and 320-480 mg for adults with eczema.[7] Try a dose of 1,000 mg evening primrose oil twice daily.

Share Your Experience

Do you suffer from eczema? Have you ever tried probiotics or evening primrose oil, and if so, did they help your symptoms? Share your tips for natural eczema treatment in the comments section below.

[1] ISRN Allergy. 2014 Apr 2;2014:354250.
[2] Skin Therapy Lett. 2014 Jul-Aug;19(4):5-7.
[3] Clin Exp Allergy. 2015 Jan 20.
[4] J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Nov-Dec;48 Suppl 1:S34-6.
[5] Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2014 Aug;113(2):217-26.
[6] Adv Ther. 2014 Feb;31(2):180-8.
[7] Ann Dermatol. 2013 Aug;25(3):285-91.

This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated.

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