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Musings on Eczema

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 46 - November 1999

I used to enjoy treating eczema; indeed, early in my homeopathic career I loved to see a case come through the door. After years as a conventional GP having nothing to offer except moisturising emollients and steroid creams, interspersed with the odd course of antibiotics, it came as a revelation to be able to prescribe something which made a real difference.

One should never underestimate the benefit to patients of good medical treatment for eczema. Using the correct emollient, and enough of it, is the absolute foundation of eczema management. I have seen terribly distressed children (and parents) transformed by this simple and safe approach. Eczema really can, in some cases, be controlled simply by avoiding soap and applying enough moisturiser!

Sadly, this is not enough for everyone. In the more severe cases, the skin is so actively inflamed that some further relief is essential in order to prevent a snowballing effect of damaging scratching and secondary infection. This usually takes the form of steroid cream to reduce inflammation and antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are thought to trigger the inflammation in the first place in the susceptible eczema sufferer.

A little known fact is that if eczema spreads over a large percentage of the body, it becomes a life threatening condition called erythroderma. The skin is so damaged that it can no longer perform its vital functions of temperature control, moisture retention and barrier against infection. The patient can become dehydrated, hypothermic and very unwell, requiring urgent hospital admission.

All these vital elements of eczema management have to be understood before embarking on homoeopathic treatment. It is particularly vital to understand the concept and significance of erythroderma because homoeopathic treatment can cause a worsening, or aggravation, of the patient's condition before improvement sets in. This has to be managed very carefully, especially when dealing with an eczema that could aggravate to erythroderma.

I used to love treating eczema until the day came when one of my patients had an aggravation. Fortunately, this did not amount to erythroderma, but it needed careful handling for a number of months. Since that time, I have become much more careful in my use of homoeopathic medicines in order to minimise the risk of aggravation.

A successful case which I treated almost two years ago was a little boy who had had eczema since the age of three months. It started on his face and behind his legs and shifted from there to his arms, trunk and buttocks. He had started to have an intractably spotty bottom! The situation was controlled by creams, bath oils, oat baths (where the bath water is run through an oatmeal bag) and daily application of 1% hydrocortisone cream to the inflamed patches.

He scratched terribly and this worsened the inflammation. He was not especially worse after the bath, nor at night but tended to flare up if excited during the day. Of note was that he had never had eczema behind nor around the ears and that he still had quite a lot at cradle cap, a greasy build up of skin on the scalp.

His general health was good and he was thriving. The only chronic problem he had apart from the eczema was a green nasal discharge which lasted for long periods after colds and sometimes seemed to require antibiotics before settling. His bowels tended to be somewhat constipated but he could also sometimes get doses of diarrhoea.

Generally speaking he was a very hot child, tending to be hot and sweaty in bed with a sweaty head. However, he did not mind wearing a woolly hat in the cold weather. He would sleep on his back or his side and had never been keen on his tummy. He was a thirsty fellow, liking fruit juice and milk. He also had a clearly sweet tooth.

His character was not especially loud and boisterous but rather a chatty, busy little individual, who played quite methodically. He had quite a few fears including wolves, monsters, the dark and being alone. He could be obstinate but not excessively so. He was initially shy but warmed up eventually to being quite friendly.

Overall, I felt that this little boy would benefit from the homoeopathic medicine Sulphur, which is known for its multitude of actions, particularly on the skin. However, it is also prone to cause aggravations in skin conditions. The last thing that I wanted was to cause a flare up in his eczema with the attendant misery and sleepless nights, not to mention loss of confidence in homoeopathy! I therefore decided to be very circumspect with the dose and gave only three tablets of the 12c potency to be taken twelve hourly.

After a month his mother reported that he had been far better for about two weeks, but that things had then flared up again. We repeated the dose and he settled again, this time for three months and with no aggravation. He has since had two doses over two years in total and is doing very well indeed. He still uses some emollient and avoids soap but hardly ever needs hydrocortisone. The spotty bottom and green nasal discharge have also disappeared.

I should say that I never stop patients from using their regular creams when embarking on homoeopathic treatment for eczema. In my opinion, there is no need for emollients to be stopped. Steroid creams can be phased out gradually and naturally as the condition improves. A useful healing cream can be purchased which contains calendula. This sometimes succeeds in holding eczema at bay better than the standard medical emollients. Best of all though is the dose of three homoeopathic tablets which can profoundly affect the process of eczema in the patient's body and seemingly abolish it completely There really is nothing like it in the conventional medical armamentarium and I am really glad to have homoeopathy at my disposal.

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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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