Eczema comes in several different forms but the most atopic dermatitis is the most common form. Atopic dermatitis causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked. It’s usually a long-term (chronic) condition, although it can improve significantly, or even clear completely, in some children as they get older.
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Can it be treated?
Unfortunately, treatments for atopic eczema serve only to ease the symptoms.
The results can improve the condition to the extent that it no longer diminishes quality of life, however.
Natural oils, for example, have been prized for centuries for their beneficial fatty acids that help to repair the skin’s natural barrier.
The skin’s natural barrier is defective in patients with eczema.
One that has shown particular promise is borage oil, an extract made from the seeds of the borage officinalis plant.
A review of studies using borage oil topically, and other GLA-containing essential oils, found borage oil has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that can be beneficial for people with atopic dermatitis.
High gamma linoleic acid (GLA), the primary active ingredient found in borage oil, is a fatty acid that can help reduce inflammation tied to many conditions, such as eczema.
The results haven’t been entirely consistent, however.
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In a separate review of the effect of borage oil taken by mouth, researchers concluded that borage oil showed no more benefits for people with eczema than placebos, based on an analysis of 19 related studies.
Thus, clinical research is showing more promise with topical borage oil for skin diseases compared with oral versions.
While borage oil has shown promise, it is important to note that not all natural oils are good for our skin.
“Some can be irritating and may even worsen eczema,” explains the National Eczema Association.
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According to the health body, the plant source, composition and the ways that natural oils are extracted determine their benefit and harm.
What are the main treatments for eczema?
According to the NHS, the main treatments for atopic eczema 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 treatment
- 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, notes the NHS.
One simple self-help tip is to try to reduce the damage from scratching.
The NHS explains: “Eczema is often itchy, and it can be very tempting to scratch the affected areas of skin.
“But scratching usually damages the skin, which can itself cause more eczema to occur.”
To reduce the risk of scratching, you could try gently rubbing your skin with your fingers instead, it advises.
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