The latest dermatological research suggests that scientists are getting closer to finding an eczema cure. This breakthrough comes after researchers discovered that a deficiency of a certain protein in the natural barrier of the skin is the cause of the uncomfortable condition. Historically, eczema rashes have been treated and managed with moisturisers and steroid creams, but there is currently no cure.
Could an eczema cure be a step closer?
Researchers at the University of Dundee were the first to find that the inherited skin condition was caused by a lack of the skin protein; filaggrin. Filaggrin plays an important role in protecting the skin from irritants. Now scientists at Newcastle University have used this discovery as a basis to learn why some people have atopic eczema. This is a strain of the condition which develops in childhood and causes patches of dry, itchy skin on the hands, inner elbows, back of knees, face and scalp.
The medical research team behind this study, lead by Professor Nick Reynolds, modified a model of human skin with a filaggrin deficiency. They then studied multiple biological mechanisms and observed how the cell structure of the model skin responded to the tests . The researchers found that the lack of filaggrin impacts other proteins on the skin and triggers the reactions typical in atopic eczema.
These findings, which were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, are believed to be the first step towards a successful eczema cure. This is because drug developers will now be able to work on medication that targets the causes of atopic eczema rather than simply easing the symptoms.
Eczema is a chronic, non-contagious skin condition which, according to the National Eczema Society, affects one in five children and one in 12 adults in the UK. Atopic eczema can occur all over the body but, as mentioned earlier, it most commonly affects the hands, inner elbows, knees, face and scalp. The severity of the symptoms differ between individuals; some people may only experience small patches of dry skin which are occasionally itchy, while those with more serious atopic eczema might have red, inflamed and intensely itchy skin all over their body.
Managing Eczema – Self Care
There is no known eczema cure. The condition is currently treated with emollients and topical steroids, both of which are applied as creams or ointments and aim to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of the condition.
One of the ways which you can help yourself or your child to be more comfortable while living with atopic eczema is resisting the urge to scratch. Although it is tempting to scratch the affected patches, this further damages the surface layer of skin and causes the eczema to become worse. To minimise habitual scratching, fingernails should be kept short and sufferers should be encouraged to rub the affected areas of skin with their fingertips instead. Anti-scratch mittens can also be put on babies to stop them from damaging their skin.
Another form of self-care for eczema is to work out what triggers flare-ups. It may be specific fabrics, heat or certain soaps and detergents. Some people with eczema find that certain food products, such as eggs and milk, inflame their condition. If this is the case, you may wish to seek advice from a nutritionist in the Richmond area with expertise in eczema.
The National Eczema Society runs local support groups for parents of children with eczema and those living with the condition themselves. The Kingston and Richmond Support Group meets on the first Wednesday of every month at the Canterbury Arms pub. If you would like to get in touch and arrange to join this support group, send an email to [email protected]