Amanda Cresswell-Melville knows all too well how eczema (specifically, the type of eczema referred to as atopic dermatitis) can affect the whole family. Her son has had dry, flaky skin almost since birth. At only three months old, he started getting the 'rashing' and 'crusting' of the skin causing terrible itching and by six months old his eczema was out of control. They went through many sleepless and difficult nights until they started following a simple regimen recommended by the Eczema Society of Canada in combination with a prescription medication. Her son, now five, lives relatively itch free and his eczema is under good control, allowing him to enjoy everyday activities like every other five-year-old.
Amanda has been vigorous in ensuring that her children follow the 'triangle of control,' which consists of bathing and moisturizing the skin, avoiding triggers, and using prescription products as needed. The most important of which, is the hydration of the skin. This seemingly simple step made a significant difference in reducing the itchiness and painful flare ups her children were experiencing. As Amanda can attest to, today, her children are not merely coping with the condition but are thriving despite it (her three-year-old daughter also has been diagnosed with eczema).
"My son's skin completely changed after we started the triangle of control routine. We want eczema sufferers to know that while there is no cure, there is help available and they can achieve good control of their condition so they can continue with their normal, daily activities," says Amanda. "With appropriate hydration of the skin, proper education and medical management people with eczema no longer have to suffer in silence or be embarrassed about their sore rashes, dry skin and uncontrollable itching."
What is eczema?
Eczema, or more specifically atopic dermatitis, is the most common type of eczema and is related to an impaired skin barrier which causes continual itching, dry skin and inflammation. About 15 to 20 per cent of Canadians suffer from this condition. In fact, in Canada, the lifetime prevalence is higher than the worldwide average.The areas of eczema become red, scaly, and/or bumpy. It typically starts within the first two years of life, and is characterized by periods of clear skin, and then recurrent 'flares'. Flares are acute episodes, and are unpredictable in terms of timing and what triggers them. Therefore, the goal of skin care is to protect and maintain the skin barrier. How does one go about this? According to the ESC, following the triangle of control and keeping the skin hydrated and moisturized can make a significant difference in reducing the itching, inflammation and flare ups.
How to get eczema under control?
The basic principle of the triangle of control is to keep the skin hydrated and to decrease the itchiness. The more itching the more the skin barrier breaks down, which continues the frustrating and painful cycle of flares and inflammation.
To get your eczema under control, try the following simple steps:
It is important that patients stick to their recommended treatment regimen and, according to Dr. Harvey Lui, Professor and Head of the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia, "all of the benefits that medical science and research has to offer eczema sufferers will be futile if we are not able to get patients to actually follow through on using treatments properly. Unfortunately, poor adherence to treatment is probably the biggest cause of failure and frustration."
In fact, eczema sufferers often find it challenging to find an appropriate moisturizer. The ESC recommends a simple process for choosing a moisturizer, including:
1. Find a moisturizer that is formulated specifically for eczema. This will not only mean that it is most likely free from irritating ingredients, but it will also most likely have additional ingredients that are beneficial for people who suffer from eczema
2. Choose a formulation that you will actually use. When eczema sufferers encounter a product that stings, or a product that is too sticky or heavy, they stop using it. Try something that you find comfortable to apply at least once daily, if not more often.
3. Select a product that fits your budget. Expensive is not necessarily better; however, products that are too inexpensive may not deliver the same moisturizing properties, or may have a high water content, which can actually be drying the skin
"Learning how to properly control your eczema and taking the time to follow the regimen and staying with it, will not only improve the condition of your skin, but will make your life more comfortable and easier to manage," adds Amanda.
The Eczema Society of Canada is a registered charity dedicated to meeting the needs of those suffering with eczema, through patient support, education, awareness, and research. The Society has developed the Seal of Acceptance program to help people with eczema and sensitive skin navigate the often confusing and overwhelming marketplace. Products that earn the seal have been formulated for, or intended specifically to be suitable for the sensitive skin of eczema. All products that apply for the seal undergo formulation and ingredient review, and must provide testing data, to ensure that the product is indeed suitable. Not only are these products free from known irritants, but they also contain additional ingredients that are beneficial for eczema, such as ingredients that work to repair the damaged skin barrier of atopic skin, and help to reduce the itch. For more information on eczema, speak to your doctor or visit www.eczemahelp.ca