Saturday, July 14, 2012

DIY: Treating Eczema Without a Doctor

As my husband and I are in the boat of: just barely paying our bills and still eating, and cannot afford health insurance, I have had to get creative over the years in treating health concerns that have come up.  I have become pretty excellent at internet research, keeping up a stock of herbal treatments, etc.  Sometimes, it was all for naught and we had to dig into our savings (when we had them), dig into our available credit lines, or borrow money from family to go to a doctor (or dentist) and get the treatment we needed.  We are both fortunate that such occurrences are rare as we are generally in good health and able-bodied.  That said, there have been a couple things that have really challenged me: UTIs and eczema.  In the case of UTIs I have more often than not treated them successfully at home and when that proved impossible their treatment is covered as "reproductive care" for people assigned female at birth under California's Family PACT and so I have been able to go to the doctor and get medication (I'm not talking about that here because it is a riskier thing to treat at home and my results have been spottier).

This latest bout of eczema, however, is not covered under such care, last I checked we made too much for Medi-Cal, and as it occurred around my eyes, specialist treatment was indicated.  Even accessing local resources such as UCB or UCSF would have taken a chunk of money we simply don't have.

Fortunately I was able to treat it at home by combining just about every frequent piece of treating at-home advice I found online.  Given how fucking awful eczema is, I thought I might share what finally worked for me here in the hopes that others might be able to treat theirs more quickly and with less hassle.  That said, I AM NOT A DOCTOR.  Your biochemistry might react differently to this regimen and you should always be tuned into just how severe your outbreak is and what you need to do for your own health and sanity.  It should also be noted that I had to treat this flare for about a month, with two periods of rapid improvement and a whole lot of stagnation in between them.  Caring for things like this at home is not necessarily easier, or better for you, it just is what it is and sometimes it's all we have.

OK, so here's what finally did it:

coconut oil (I used organic, virgin, unrefined coconut oil) (used liberally)
an herbal salve specially made for eczema and other similar skin conditions (used liberally)
another herbal salve, kind of used as an "all purpose" ointment in my house (used liberally)
hydrocortisone 1% (used 1x a day, sparingly) (steroids aren't great for long term use in general, and I would say you should ONLY use it when you're dealing with a temporary flare and not a chronic issue, you also have to be extremely careful with it around your eyes as steroids can cause major damage to your eye)
anti-histamine medication (taken as directed, I just got a generic type from Costco)
pro-biotics (taken as directed, I opted for dissolving wafers)
evening primrose oil (capsules) (taken as directed, you can find these wherever they sell nutritional/herbal supplements)

Rinsing the effected area with cool water and then applying the salves helped immensely, usually did this several times a day.  Cool compresses were a lifesaver when the outbreak started, I was about to rip my eyeballs out of their sockets until I started doing this; it was EXTREMELY effective in relieving the itching.  Unfortunately as soon as I took the compress off the itching was back, so I spent two days with a cool compress over my eyes (applying the salves several times a day as well).    After this rabid itching died down there was less of an itching but a major desire to scratch or rub the area anyway (and if you've ever had the kind I do, it feels so good and rewarding to scratch that you want to do it very, very badly), raised and thickened skin accompanied by very noticeable redness and swelling of the surrounding skin tissue.  It was in this state that I spent most of my time the past month.

Frustrated by this plateau in recovery, and a subsequent flare in itching and the spreading of the thickened/raised skin to my cheeks, I did more online research and this is when I added the evening primrose oil and coconut oil to the regimen - improvement from there was so marked that I have to recommend these two components very highly.  It could have been a coincidence, but I doubt it, adding them was a last-ditch effort to throw everything at the problem before a doctor.  It also might be one or the other of these, and I would say if you already have coconut oil in the house, try that before going out and purchasing evening primrose (or vice versa).  But after two days my skin is looking virtually normal again (though I can still feel the thick bumpiness, which is receding more slowly, and occasional itching) and I can tell that I'm on the way to long term recovery.

Until this major flare I was able to keep minor occurrences under control just with the two salves (particularly the one specifically for eczema) applied a couple times a day.  I will now be adding coconut oil to the combination.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful for someone else, this shit is AWFUL to deal with and finding a combination that works sure felt like a life-saver to me.  Prevention is of course good too, keeping your skin moisturized (moisturizing asap after washing skin is best), not taking boiling hot showers, and not scratching your skin excessively are all things to keep in mind.  In my experience scratching skin is the worst thing you can do; not the odd scratch here and there, but repeated scratching almost always produces a mini (or in this case major) flare for me.  I know too that there have been good results with oatmeal baths once a week if your eczema is the chronic and not flaring type.

Wishing you all the best of luck...

Update: A couple weeks later and everything is under control again.  I ran out of evening primrose oil capsules a few days ago and decided to see whether they were worth investing in again... OH YES.  My symptoms started coming back within a day, mildly, but there.  Bought some and started taking them, next day the symptoms were almost gone again.  You never know how herbal medicines will effect your body, but for me apparently, this is a HUGE help; so I would definitely recommend trying it.

Further update: A month from the original post and things continue to be basically under control, with minor flare ups dealt with easily and effectively with topical treatments and continued evening primrose oil use.  I discontinued using antihistamines about a week ago because after prolonged use they were making me really, really drowsy, all the time.  One further thing I have learned about using evening primrose oil is that it's been pretty important to take the pills regularly, 1000mg, three times a day.  When I have taken it sporadically I have gotten flare ups, but when I take it regularly, so that there is some in my system all day long (trying to space dosages fairly evenly, kinda like a birth control pill but more daily doses), I stay flare-free.

Further update: 6 weeks from the original post and my skin is back to normal.  I'm still taking evening primrose oil twice a day and applying the eczema salve on my eyelids at bed time, but that's it!  I did have a possibly related ailment pop up at the corners of my mouth - little cuts, mostly on one side, accompanied at first by skin irritation around them.  This was INCREDIBLY annoying, made it difficult to talk or eat as opening my mouth was painful (I had something similar happen at the corners of my eyes when my eczema outbreak was at it's worst) but I solved this with lots of my most basic lip balm constantly, my goes-on-everything salve and Neosporin twice a day.  I tried a few other things, but they didn't help much.  A couple days of this regime and the little cuts cleared up and haven't come back.

Further update: Four months later and I had another attack.  After discussing with the hubs we wondered if it might not be a mild pet allergy that has developed over the years or is being aggravated by something else, since it seemed to reoccur after our boycat had been laying against my face post-cat-bath.  On this suspicion I went out and got a small box of Claritin, since that is what an old roommate used to take effectively for her pet allergies.  I saw an immediate positive result, by the end of the day the itching had reduced significantly.  After four days the itching and redness and swelling of skin were all gone.  After two days NOT taking it, they came back.  And now that I've been on it again for two days, it's almost gone again.  I think we may have a winner!  And yes, on return I got generic and it's working fine.

More updating:  Three weeks into this treatment, it's confirmed, this type of antihistamine definitely works.  It works best in conjunction with Evening Primrose Oil.  Any time I stop taking either one for any length of time the symptoms start coming back.  I'm going to keep trying to stop taking the OTC antihistamine though, and only take it when I see symptoms start, as I don't want to be taking it just all the time, preferably.  But thank GOODNESS I finally figured this shit out and have a working attack plan!

Yet another update: almost a year later now and the main thing I have found is that these flares seem to be most related to suppressed stress.  The more I work on that, the fewer and milder they are.  So take note y'all.  If you are ignoring things that are stressing you out, you might want to look to that before anything else.

1 comment:

  1. Have a nice day!!
    While there are many natural treatment for eczema, you will probably want to try them one at a time until you determine which ones work for you, because every remedy does not work for every person. You might begin with fish oil. Some studies have shown fish oil to be effective in controlling the itchy skin and inflammation. If you don't get enough in your regular diet, there are fish oil capsules that you can take as a dietary supplement.Read more at-natural treatment eczema


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