Eczema comes in several forms but the most common is atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. Atopic eczema causes areas of skin to become itchy, dry, cracked and sore. As the NHS explains, there are usually periods where the symptoms improve, followed by periods where they get worse (flare-ups).
Flare-ups, which may occur as often as two or three times a month, can occur all over the body, but are most common on the hands (especially fingers), the insides of the elbows or backs of the knees, and the face and scalp in children, says the health body.
Living with eczema can be an ongoing challenge, especially as dry, cracked skin is more vulnerable to bacterial infections.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the condition, but research suggests this doesn’t matter.
There are natural ways to alleviate the severity of symptoms and maintain quality of life.
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A previous study of 22 hospitalised people with eczema found that infusion therapy with fish oil resulted in significant improvements in eczema severity, compared with an infusion of soybean oil.
Furthermore, a 16-week study in people with moderate to severe eczema demonstrated that supplementing daily with omega-3 fats, along with omega-6 fats, zinc, vitamin E, and a multivitamin, reduced eczema severity by more than 50 percent in over 80 percent of participants.
Omega-3 fats are one of the main components of fish supplements, although it is unknown whether it would have had the same effect if it would have been used on its own.
Animal studies are in line with these findings.
A rodent study found that rats with eczema who were orally supplemented with fish oil for 30 days showed significant improvements in skin hydration and reductions in scratching behaviour.
Additionally, a study in mice found that treatment with DHA and EPA decreased eczema scores and reduced levels of inflammatory proteins and immunoglobulin E (IgE).
IgE is an antibody produced by the immune system in response to allergens, and high levels of it are associated with eczema.
In addition to supplementation, there are things you can do yourself to help ease your symptoms and prevent further problems.
One tip is to try to avoid scratching the affected region.
Eczema is often itchy, and it can be very tempting to scratch the affected areas of skin.
But, as the NHS explains, scratching usually damages the skin, which can itself cause more eczema to occur.
“A GP can also help you to establish what might trigger the eczema flare-ups, although it may get better or worse for no obvious reason,” explains the health body.
Once you know your triggers, you can try to avoid them.