Many eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) patients learn of various products or treatments or diets via Facebook support groups that have helped other patients achieve fantastic healing effects. The patients who swear by these methods often enthusiastically push others to try them. Then, when the non-using patient tries the product or treatment or diet, they don’t achieve the same results. What gives?
Bottom line: Eczema and TSW presents in many different forms. Most people have a different combination and ratio of contributing factors that require different solutions to fully heal. As a result, people can have wildly different responses to the same products/treatments/diets. Here’s why.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
In the Western world, eczema is treated as one disease. So people think “one disease, one cure.” This mindset is reinforced because MD’s typically prescribe from the same arsenal of medicines including moisturizers, steroids, antimicrobials, immunosuppressants or biologics regardless of location of the eczema or the type of lesions it produces. The Western model only customizes the treatment of eczema when deciding the strength/level of steroid or antimicrobial needed or determining the severity to determine if immunosuppressants or biologics are appropriate (though that’s probably an insurance and financial question more than anything else). Aside from that, conventional medicine has a one size fits all approach to eczema. And sadly, it doesn’t even have a real approach to treating TSW.
It’s usually not until patients have tried all the conventional methods to no avail that they start to realize that all eczema and TSW is not the same, therefore, there isn’t one cure that works for everyone.
Chinese medicine recognizes that there are 7 different patterns of eczema and many different expressions of TSW. For example, you’ve probably noticed some patients have lesions that are pinker and more diffuse, some patients are redder and more defined, some patients are drier and lichenified, some patients are wet and oozy, some patients just suffer in the crooks of the elbows and knees and others have full body issues. Some people develop a whole host of other issues. The variations go on.
Even after identifying which pattern is yours, Chinese medicine understands that your presentation can be further complicated by other contributing factors including your basic constitution, other systems compromised by your eczema or TSW, the other health conditions that are part of your health picture, your lifestyle, your diet, your ability to modulate strong emotions, your relationships, your overall stress levels, etc.
To illustrate how these factors can make a big difference, let’s look at a few scenarios. For example, someone whose digestive system has been compromised as a result of their long-term eczema is not going to fare as well with many types of extreme diets versus people with stronger digestive systems. People who are suffering from multiple health issues in addition to TSW will likely respond differently to some therapies than people who are generally healthy except for their eczema. People who have very wet lesions will probably respond better to drying therapies than someone who is already has very dry and lichenified skin, And people with heightened sensitivities will likely react less favorably to many moisturizing products and even many benign ingredients than someone who is less reactive.
As you can see, it’s very important to not only identify your pattern but also understand how other factors are contributing to your condition before you can begin to adequately evaluate if a product, treatment or diet is right for you.
What to Consider
The effectiveness of a product or treatment or diet depends upon whether the ingredients or the desired therapeutic affect addresses your underlying issues but also considers all the other issues that come into play in your eczema or TSW picture.
So, the question is not “Does this product/treatment/diet work?” The question is multi-fold. Here are the things to consider before trying something new.
- Does the product/treatment/diet address the root cause or specific pattern of your skin condition?
- Does it make sense for the type of lesions you have (wet, dry, infected)?
- Will it work in alignment with the other issues you have?
- Is it an appropriate dosage for you given your constitution and overall health?
Yes, it can be confusing to find the best solutions for your eczema or TSW. But if you look at yourself as a unique individual and consider your specific issues, how they manifest and what will best address them, you’ll likely arrive at the best choices for you.
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About the Author
Dr. Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, DACM, Cert. TCM Dermatology is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats eczema, TSW, acne, and psoriasis patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, is the Chair of the American Society of Acupuncturists Board of Directors, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Support Group sponsored by The National Eczema Association.