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However, the rogue genes might never be switched on until the person is exposed to specific environmental triggers, such as low temperatures or low humidity, which dry the skin to the point that brings on eczema. The latest thinking in eczema treatment focuses on protecting the skin barrier first with emollients moisturising oils, creams and ointments and then dampening down the immune system with steroid creams when red, itchy skin inflammation occurs.

However, continuous and over-use of steroid creams can cause skin-thinning — the steroid appears to reduce the production of collagen, a protein that helps supports the top levels of skin. In extreme cases light therapy see next page can help. Soap is too harsh for eczema sufferers, he says, and avoid any skincare products containing preservatives or washes containing sodium laurel sulphate, which can irritate eczema.

This skin condition — characterised by raised flaking, itching red patches on various parts of the body — affects around 1. It is an immune condition that causes the body to produce too many new skin cells. A virus or infection such as tonsillitis — when the immune system is weakened — can trigger the condition in those with a genetic predisposition, as can a stressful event, says Christopher Griffiths, professor of dermatology at the University of Manchester and a world expert on psoriasis. Around 30 per cent of people with psoriasis get painful joints — sometimes the joint pain comes before the skin condition appears — because the immune system targets the joints, triggering psoriatic arthritis.

For the past years products containing coal tar, a thick, heavy oil with a strong smell have been used for psoriasis. This triggers a chemical reaction that slows down the production of skin cells. But coal tar can be unpleasant to use it is smelly and can be messy and PUVA has been linked with skin cancer. Instead, specialists increasingly favour UV treatment see laser box which has a lower risk of skin cancer.

Mild cases of psoriasis can now be treated using gels containing vitamin D — which slows the over-active build-up of the top layer of skin — combined with a corticosteroid, which can dampen down the immune response. One study found that 56 per cent of children developed an irritant reaction to it, while many complained that it made their skin sting. The treatment helps block the chemicals that lead to the immune response.

The injections are administered by the patient — just as someone with diabetes injects insulin — once a week or once every 12 weeks, depending on the type of treatment. Four different biological therapies have been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence NICE and, according to Professor Williams, one more which promises to be even more effective is due for approval within 12 months.

50 Things You Can Do Today to Manage Eczema by Wendy Green, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

The drugs are, however, expensive, so dermatologists use them only as a last resort, and come with the possibilities of side-effects such as increased risk of infection, rashes and, in very rare cases, neurological symptoms such as seizures and inflammation of the nerves of the eyes. Another ground-breaking treatment, a new once-a-day tablet called apremilast, could become available in the UK in the next year.

It works by inhibiting an enzyme in immune cells, causing an anti-inflammatory effect. Trials on the drug in the U. Professor Griffiths has been conducting clinical trials of the drug in the UK. Light therapy can help a number of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Being overweight is associated with a higher incidence of skin problems including psoriasis. It contains humectants — substances that increase the moisture levels in the skin and also acts to gently remove surface skin cells, says Dr Joanna Gach, consultant dermatologist at University Hospital Coventry and BMI Meriden in Coventry.

The ruddy faced flushing and blushing that characterises rosacea is an extremely common problem in middle age. A study found that almost half of all UK adults report some symptoms. Steroid creams are no longer prescribed — many specialists believe they make the condition worse — but GPs can prescribe a new gel called brimonidine, which restricts the dilation of blood vessels that causes redness. If your skin flushes red frequently, or stays red between flushing episodes, your GP can prescribe an anti-inflammatory ointment azelaic acid or low doses of an oral antibiotic tetracycline , which can help reduce inflammation.

Some patients find laser treatments can help. A new, if controversial, theory is that rosacea sufferers have more bacteria on their skin — specifically, bacteria produced by a mite called Demodex.

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We all have this mite on our skin, but studies have found levels in rosacea sufferers can be ten times greater, which is thought to lead to higher levels of inflammation. As a result, some pharmaceutical companies are looking at ways to control the Demodex mite as a way of controlling rosacea. Cameron Diaz has previously discussed how her love of junk food triggered acne. More than half of all women over the age of 25 suffer some form of facial acne and as with teen acne, it is triggered by hormonal changes. In both age groups, high levels of the hormone testosterone cause the oil glands to pump out excess oil, blocking pores and causing pimples.

Acne sufferers also appear to have more propionic bacterium p. Repeated studies have found that products containing salicylic acid at concentrations of 2. For many decades antibiotics have been prescribed for acne, to destroy the bacteria on the skin.

However concerns about antibiotic resistance mean GPs are more likely to prescribe higher strength benzoyl peroxide in combination with a mild topical antibiotic or vitamin A cream, which help remove the top layer of the skin so unblocking pores. Women can be prescribed the contraceptive pill Yasmin or Dianette which can block the increased testosterone that causes acne, but the spots frequently reappear when they later come off the Pill.

Dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe says a newer drug called spironolactone, used mainly as an anti-blood pressure medication has been found to have the same testosterone-blocking effects on acne, without the risks. Another option is light therapy see box , right. For severe acne and as a last resort, a dermatologist can prescribe strong medication called isotretinoin perhaps best known by the brand name Roaccutane which reduces the action of the oil glands and the bacteria that cause acne, and which can also help reduce the formation of scarring.

Most acne treatments take eight to 12 weeks for skin to respond, but if you are worried about scars, talk to your GP. This produces a softer scar that eventually fades. Laser resurfacing and dermabrasion that removes the top layer of the skin may also help scarring, says Dr Bewley. However none of these treatments are available on the NHS. However, side-effects can include back pain, extreme drying out of the skin, lips and scalp, muscle pain, hair loss and in rare cases psychiatric problems; women taking the drug must also take the Pill to avoid pregnancy as the drug can cause birth defects.

Some doctors are now using lower doses for four to six months to ensure the side-effects are not too severe, monitoring patients with the option to put them on a further dose later on if required. It might also be worth thinking about your diet. A review published last year by New York University of 50 years of studies, suggested eating foods with a high GI and drinking milk not only aggravated acne but in some cases triggered it, possibly because they trigger hormonal fluctuations.

Paralympic champion Hannah Cockcroft, 22, suffered from acne from the age of Paralympic champion Hannah Cockcroft, 22, has suffered from acne since the age of 12 and her joy after winning two gold medals in was well and truly dampened by comments about her skin. After six to eight weeks the difference was incredible.


I had virtually no spots and my skin looked calm and clear. It was painless and there were so side-effects. For acne and eczema : Try fish oils. A fish oil supplement can also be useful for patients with seborrhoeic dermatitis, a common scaling rash associated with surface yeasts, as it reduces inflammation. Take one to two mg capsules daily. Omega 3 fish oil supplements right can be beneficial in patients with acne.

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Lycopene, extracted from tomatoes, is thought to suppress free radicals - molecules that are believed to be responsible for cell damage and ageing in the skin caused by the sun. For psoriasis : Try Vitamin D3. Research conducted by the University of Verona and published in the British Journal of Dermatology in found that vitamin D deficiency is very common in psoriasis sufferers, affecting 80 per cent of patients in winter and 50 per cent in summer. Take international units iu daily in the winter, iu in the summer. For sun protection: Try lycopene.

Extracted from tomatoes, lycopene is thought to suppress free radicals — molecules that are believed to be responsible for cell damage and ageing in the skin caused by the sun. Worrying about having a cold sore for a big event like a wedding for instance may actually be a trigger. These small blisters develop around the lips and mouth after contact with the herpes simplex virus. Professor Griffiths says acyclovir and penciclovir creams have also been shown to reduce the duration of cold sore attack.

He recommends a lip salve containing sun block as sunlight is a common trigger — especially on summer holidays or skiing trips. Warts are small, rough growths caused by the human papillomavirus. A verruca is simply a wart on the sole of the foot.


Apply nail varnish to your verruca to give it a waterproof seal and prevent it infecting others, recommends podiatrist Emma Supple. Home-treatments using salicylic acid to remove skin cells or liquid nitrogen which freezes and destroys the affected skin cells are most effective if the wart or verruca is caught early, says Dr Friedmann. He says an older painless treatment that has come back into fashion is diphencyprone DCP which can be painted on the warts by a specialist at a limited number of NHS centres or privately every two to four weeks.

A newer treatment imiquimod Aldara works by attracting the attention of the immune system so it attacks the wart and destroys it available on prescription. Dr Tariq Khan, a consultant podiatrist at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, recommends boosting the immune system with a dose of zinc 15mg of zinc citrate daily. He also says he has successfully trialed a herbal extract of marigold which has antiviral and keratolytic properties it thins the skin causing the wart to shed the top layers with a 90 per cent success rate over 12 weeks compared to placebo.

Four hundred podiatrists have been trained in its use.

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Contact tariq. From acne and scars to eczema and psoriasis, various forms of light and laser treatments are showing very positive results. UV Light Therapy: Ultra violet rays similar to those in sunlight have been used for decades to help treat conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The rays appear to dampen the overactive immune response that causes both conditions.

Although any UV exposure brings an increased risk of skin cancer, the dose is measured, and the patient is exposed to only a small part of the UV light spectrum, keeping the risk low. In severe eczema cases, a patient may be prescribed on the NHS a course of UV sessions three times a week for three months.

Atopic dermatitis

Ultra violet rays similar to those in sunlight have been used for decades to help treat conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Are you one of them? Wendy Green explains the psychological, dietary and hormonal factors that can cause eczema, and offers practical advice and a holistic approach to help you deal with the symptoms, including simple lifestyle and dietary changes and DIY natural therapies. OCo Manage stress to prevent flare-upsOCo Learn how to adapt your home environmentOCo Choose beneficial foods and supplementsOCo Find helpful organisations and productsCare for your skin and manage eczema with this easy-to-follow guide.

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