Eczema is a very common skin condition that affects a substantial portion of our population. (1) The main symptom that brings people to seek help with managing their eczema is pruritus or itching. Controlling the itch sensation associated with eczema is one of the most important treatment strategies for both western and eastern medicines. Continuous itching of skin can lead to lichenification or thickening of the skin and can make the eczema more chronic and more difficult to treat.
Western medicine makes use of immunosuppressive steroids to reduce inflammation which is contributing to the itch, redness and swelling associated with an eczematous rash. Hydrocortisone cream is typical topical approach to calming inflammation and itch. The use of topical steroids however are contraindicated for long term use because of their damaging effects to the skin barrier function of the stratum corneum. (2) Furthermore the use of steroid creams are used with caution around the face where the the skin is already thinner in nature. Acupuncture has been proven to help with reducing itch associated with eczema and offers a viable alternative to the use of immunosuppressive drugs.
In a study published in The European Journal of Allergy and Immunology acupuncture was found to be effective in the reduction of type I hypersensitivity reactions associated with atopic eczema. (3) In this study people with atopic eczema were separated into 3 groups, a true acupuncture group receiving real acupuncture points, a placebo group who received acupuncture at insignificant points, and finally a group who received no acupuncture treatment. To initiate an itch reaction each person was pricked with a piece of grass pollen. Acupuncture in both the true and placebo groups was administered after the itch stimulus was applied. The study revealed that both the intensity and time of itch were reduced significantly greater in the group receiving true acupuncture treatments.
Relieving itch associated with skin inflammation and ezcema is the one of the most important aspects of the successful treatment of eczema. Acupuncture offers a viable and clinically proven alternative to immunosuppressive drugs in the treatment of itch associated eczema.
A sigh of relief,
Joseph Tonzola L.Ac., Dipl. OM
1 National Eczema Association. Eczema Prevalance in the United States. 2014
2 Oakley A., Hamilton, New Zealand. Dermnet NZ. Topical Steroids. 2014
3 Pfab F., Huss-Marp J., Gatti A. Influence of acupuncture on type 1 hypersensitivity. Allergy.2010;65(7):903–910. [PubMed]