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TCM For Eczema | Topical Steroid Withdrawal | Red Skin Syndrome

what is eczema and what are the common causes of eczema

What is eczema?

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that causes the skin to become inflamed and irritated, appearing as red rashes or itching, peeling skin that could look either dry and flaky or thick and scaly.

Common causes of eczema

Eczema is typically understood to be caused by an immune system imbalance or over-activeness in reaction to both internal and external factors, and increasingly thought to be related to gut health imbalances, such as leaky gut syndrome. These are why weather changes, increased allergens, or even certain inflammatory foods can trigger eczema outbreaks.

Eczema in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), eczema is understood to be caused by deficiencies in the Spleen that may be coupled with pathogenic factors of wind, heat, and dampness. Each pathogenic factor has a relationship to a different set of organs in our bodies and the other factors, and also reacts differently based on other things happening to our bodies to result in eczema flare-ups.

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Causes of Eczema in TCM

Internal Factors

Dampness

There are multiple elements causing Dampness:

  1. You might naturally have a damp body constitution from birth, which usually causes the body to feel lethargic and heavy, and to face more difficulties trying to lose weight.
  2. Eating overly spicy or oily foods too often places a burden on the Spleen. This impedes the body’s ability to “digest” or regulate the dampness from overly spicy or oily foods — this results in a build up of dampness in the body which can aggravate eczema on the skin.
  3. Having a weak Spleen can also hinder the body’s ability to regulate dampness in the body as it is also vital to the digestion and removal of excess dampness in the body. You might either be born with a weak Spleen or could have developed it through having meals at irregular times, leading an overly stressful lifestyle, and not allowing yourself adequate rest.

Yin-Deficiency

The Yin and Yang energies are usually balanced in a healthy body. When Yin is deficient, Yang becomes stronger in comparison.

In TCM, Yang energy is “warm” while Yin is “cool”. If there is excess Yang, the body will skew towards having too much heat, which can deplete fluids in the body and cause the loss of moisture from the skin. The result of this is the aggravation of dry skin and eczema.

Common causes of Yin deficiency are:

  1. Having a naturally Yin deficient body constitution. People in this category usually already have very dry skin, and can feel thirsty easily and frequently, even after they have recently drunk water. They may also experience hot flashes and perspire more during sleep, or become easily frustrated.
  2. A poor diet with too much spicy or oily food, which can damage the Yin energy in the body.

Excess Heat

Excess heat in the body aggravates inflammation and causes the blood vessels to expand, which may result in the appearance of red skin on top of the other common sensations in eczema.

Excess heat can be contributed by:

  1. Eating a poor diet with excessive oily and spicy foods, which causes heatiness in the body.
  2. Aggravation by external heat — insufficient water intake in Singapore’s hot and humid weather can be a cause of heatiness.

External Factors

External Wind

Having wind or cold air blowing directly at the body from sources like fans or air conditioning can affect your susceptibility to eczema.

This is because when the body’s external defenses are weak, the weak skin barrier becomes susceptible to invasion by the external wind pathogen, and can result in itching.

External Dampness

When you are  in an environment that has too much dampness, due to factors like being too humid or poorly ventilated, or if you have overly frequent contact with water, the external dampness that your body encounters also results in an accumulation of internal dampness within the body.

What do your eczema symptoms mean?

eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (red skin syndrome) symptoms

We go into more detail about the various pathogenic factors and deficiencies in the TCM eczema understanding here, but it is best to consult our TCM physicians to receive an accurate and personalised diagnosis for your eczema.

TCM eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (red skin syndrome)

What is topical steroid withdrawal and red skin syndrome?

Without any clear conventional cure in Western medicine, eczema sufferers tend to use over-the-counter topical steroid creams to manage their itchiness and rashes. With long term use, they may end up developing an over-reliance on topical steroids. If that happens and they stop using topical steroid medications suddenly, they can experience topical steroid withdrawal, and that can develop into red skin syndrome.

Usual symptoms of topical steroid syndrome are burning or stinging sensations and severe itching on the skin, as well as dry and scaly patches emerging after redness begins to fade.

Red skin syndrome can result from topical steroid withdrawal, and specifically refers to the capillaries on the skin widening up after being artificially constricted by the topical steroids, and it can be accompanied by a burning sensation.

How can TCM improve eczema, topical steroid withdrawal and red skin syndrome?

Here at Oriental Remedies, we offer various TCM eczema treatments for our patients who suffer from eczema, topical steroid withdrawal, and red skin syndrome to better manage and improve their lives. We believe in combining modern technologies with conventional TCM methods to allow both treatment modalities to strengthen each other symbiotically.

Our eczema treatments include herbal medication and dietary recommendations, acupuncture, pediatric massage, Electro-Lymphatic Therapy (ELT) as well as Negative ion Therapy which all work towards the goal of rebalancing and bringing harmony back to the body.

how can TCM improve eczema, topical steroid withdrawal and red skin syndrome

Herbal Medication and Dietary Changes

Internal Use (ingested)

Improving gut health is a key element in TCM eczema treatments, and incorporating both our dietary recommendations and herbal medication can help to remodel and regulate the gut microbiota. A well-balanced and well-functioning gut microbiome then helps to alleviate leaky gut syndrome, and subsequently have a positive impact on eczema flare-ups.

Herbal and diet-based TCM eczema treatments typically target the imbalances and deficiencies in the Spleen, Liver, and Kidneys. An example of a prescription might include fang feng 防风 or bai ji li 白蒺藜 to dispel wind, or tu fu ling 土茯苓 or jin yin hua 金银花 to dissipate heat and fire and calm inflammation if the patient is experiencing redness or a burning sensation on their skin.

For patients experiencing topical steroid withdrawal, herbal medication helps to repair the skin’s ability to function naturally, something that has been damaged through the use of topical steroids. This can positively affect both symptoms of eczema like itchiness, shedding of skin, and impaired perspiration relatively quickly, and eventually treat imbalances in the body that may have resulted in eczema in the first place.

Benefits of Taking Herbal Medication and Dietary Changes:

  • Speed up skin recovery and scar healing
  • Manage eczema symptoms like itch, dryness, flaking etc
  • Balance immunity and organs
  • Prevent invasion from pathogens (wind, heat, dampness

External Use (herbal soak)

Patients may also be prescribed herbal soaks that are meant to protect the skin and promote skin recovery. The herbs help to reduce inflammation, itchiness, and wetness (oozing from the wound) around the affected areas.

Acupuncture

Another TCM eczema treatment, acupuncture is a method that targets specific meridian points in the body using fine needles to correct imbalances in the body’s organs. Acupuncture for eczema can be used in conjunction with the other TCM eczema remedies above and below.

Benefits of Acupuncture:

  • Improve blood circulation to promote recovery
  • Correct imbalances in the body
  • Strengthen immunity

Electro-Lymphatic Therapy

Electro-Lymphatic Therapy (ELT) is a gentle and non-invasive therapy that helps to stimulate proper flow and drainage of the lymphatic system.

This is typically achieved with a manual lymphatic drainage massage or tui na massage therapy, but can be painful for some patients. In contrast, ELT is 8-10x more effective than these conventional methods in dispelling congested lymph fluids.*

Benefits of ELT for Eczema:

  • Reduction in inflammation
  • Less itch and redness
  • Smoother skin recovery

Negative Ion Therapy

Negative Ion Therapy is a non-invasive therapy that uses a made-in-Japan wellness device to supply the body with a high density of negative ions. Negative ions exhibit antioxidant effects that neutralize harmful free radicals to support overall wellness.

Benefits of Negative Ion Therapy for Eczema:

  • Manage inflammation
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Improve overall wellness

TCM is safe and effective for children with eczema too

If you are nervous about TCM eczema treatments for children, we understand! At Oriental Remedies, we have a lineup of non-invasive, gentle treatments that are suitable for children.

TCM is safe and effective for children with eczema, topical steroid withdrawal and red skin syndrome

Pediatric Massage

Using gentler hand techniques specially designed for children, our pediatric massage helps to improve and regulate the flow of Qi and blood throughout the meridian channels and restore balance in the child’s body constitution.

Benefits of Pediatric Massage for Eczema:

  • Balance immunity by soothing the Spleen and Lungs (triggers of eczema)
  • Manage eczema symptoms (itch, redness, etc.)
  • Promote skin recovery

Herbal Remedies for Children

Beyond prescribing herbal medications that are more suited to children, herbal baths and creams are also viable options for younger children who might not be so keen on taking the soups and teas brewed from Chinese herbs.

These are more soothing, chemical-free approaches that can help our younger patients receive their treatments more holistically, and can be particularly relieving for patients who might be suffering from over-reliance on steroids and topical steroid withdrawal or red skin syndrome

Acupuncture for Children

Acupuncture is also available for our younger patients who are open to it. Of course, acupuncture can seem scary to children, and parents will always have the option to choose the treatment that their child is most comfortable with. Our physicians will be there to advise and provide you with the treatment options available.

Most of the parents at our clinics do opt for pediatric massage for their young children since it is painless and gentle on the skin.

Treat the root of your eczema without harsh chemicals

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between red skin syndrome and topical steroid withdrawal?

Red skin syndrome and topical steroid withdrawal are just different names for the same thing.

Both refer to the conditions that emerge from pausing long term use of topical steroid medications on the skin. They can look like red, burning skin (hence the name, red skin syndrome), or might be bumpy rashes on the skin. The duration of this syndrome ranges from days to weeks after stopping the topical steroid.

How long does it take to see results from TCM eczema treatments?

It varies for each individual depending on every person’s unique body constitutions and what conditions they are affected by. However, we typically see our patients experience improvements in their skin condition between as soon as 1-2 months or up to 6 months.

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