Understanding and Addressing the Underlying Causes of Inflammatory Skin Disorders
As CBD continues to receive attention for its wide range of applications, we in turn receive a multitude of questions about its potential to aid with skin issues. Because red, irritated skin is oftentimes a sign of inflammation, many people ask whether CBD for eczema and psoriasis are viable alternatives or supplements to prescription and OTC steroids, antibiotics and creams. While we cannot diagnose or recommend treatments, we can share information on these types of skin disorders that will assist you in making your own informed decisions.
Psoriasis and eczema are different types of skin disorders, and traditionally receive different treatments. However, they both include inflammation.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, meaning an overactive, or aggravated, immune system is involved. Family history can play a role in whether or not you develop eczema, as 40% of those with the disease report a family member with the same. Further, a child of a parent with psoriasis has a 30% chance of developing the condition. The most common type of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis, can cause skin cells to multiply 10 times faster than they are supposed to, leading to bumpy red patches with scales. Psoriasis patches typically show up on elbows, knees, the scalp and lower back. In severe cases, it can cover large portions of the body. Individuals with psoriasis can also develop arthritic psoriasis, another autoimmune disorder which causes pain and swelling in the joints.
Psoriasis has different triggers for flare ups, and can include stress, certain infections such as strep throat, weather, injury to the skin, and prescriptions meds such as beta-blockers for high blood pressure.
Traditional Psoriasis Treatments
Traditional treatments can include steroid and retinoid creams, moisturizers, light therapy and enzyme inhibitors. Enzyme inhibitors block specific enzymes within the body that cause inflammation. They are relatively new to the market and are prescribed for long-term inflammatory diseases.
Further, those living with psoriasis can manage flare ups that include persistent itchy skin, pain and resultant loss of sleep through the following methods:
- Keep skin moisturized: When skin dries out it can become more aggravated, thus worsening the itch. This can become cyclical, as scratching and rubbing aggravated skin further inflames the area. Try gentle soaps and moisturizers (scent-free, alcohol-free) to keep the moisture in the skin.
- Stay cool: Heat can create itchy skin. Try using warm water in your showers and baths rather than hot water. Cool clothing can help the body maintain optimal temperatures during warm days, as well as seeking out well ventilated, air conditioned spaces. Ice packs are also helpful for relieving hot, itchy areas on the skin.
- Avoid stress: Reducing stress does a world of good for our autoimmune response, and can help reduce systemic inflammation that leads to psoriasis flare ups. You can read our recent article for easy, at-home easy to reduce and cope with stress.
- Don’t scratch: Seems simple, but it often needs reminding during stressful, extreme flareups. Scratching only provides temporary relief from itchy skin, and can actually make the long-term sensations and flare ups worse. Try to cover the area with confining clothes or a bandage if the temptation continues past the initial thought. Also, trim your nails to avoid breaking any skin and resultant contamination and infection.
- Be gentle with your skin: Similar to not scratching, treat your skin gently when washing, scrubbing and general moving about. Mild soaps, gentle rubbing rather than scrubbing when cleaning, and soft fabrics help protect your skin.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, most commonly appears in children, but can become present at any age. For infants, eczema typically appears on the cheeks, elbows, and knees. For children, it is commonly present on the insides of the elbows, behind the knees and on the hands and wrists. The disorder is characterized by dry, red patches of skin that are extremely itchy. Just like psoriasis, scratching the areas further irritates them and can cause bleeding and thick or leathery skin. Eczema is often associated with asthma, an autoimmune/inflammatory disease, and hayfever (allergic rhinitis), an allergic response to particular allergens.
The primary risk factor for atopic dermatitis is genetics, having a personal or family history of eczema, allergies, hay fever or asthma. While flare ups resemble allergic reactions, it is important to remember that they are not. According to WebMd.com, the most current theory about eczema triggers is that it is a combination of several factors, including:
- Abnormal function of the immune system
- Activities that cause sensitive skin
- Defects in the skin barrier that cause moisture escape
- Endocrine system (the glands that make hormones and secrete them into the bloodstream) disorders
Triggers for eczema flare ups include external stimuli that can cause irritation, such as soaps, cleansers, perfumes, dust, solvents, environmental pollutants, cold or flu, and allergic reactions to pollen, mold or pet dander. Stress has also been associated with flare ups.
Traditional Eczema Treatments
Eczema treatments include many of the same methods mentioned above for psoriasis flare ups. Because the goal is to minimize irritation, inflammation and itch, methods to quell eczema include minimizing drying effects of the skin. The following ideas may help prevent and curb eczema flares:
- Moisturize: Choose creams, ointments and lotions that are fragrance-free and contain little to no alcohol. Moisturize at least twice a day.
- Identify and Avoid Triggers that Cause Eczema Flare Ups: Try to reduce your exposure to stress, soaps and detergents, dust, and pollen – or whatever else you know to cause your flare ups. Infants and children may experience flares from eating certain foods, such as eggs, milk, soy and wheat. Consulting a doctor may help with determining the best methods to determine food allergies.
- Short and Warm Showers: Limit your bathing to 10- to 15-minute sessions and use warm rather than hot water.
- Consider a bleach bath: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, diluted bleach baths decrease bacteria on the skin and related infections. The organization recommends adding ½ cup of non-concentrated, household bleach to a 40-gallon bathtub filled with warm water and soaking for up to 10 minutes, no more than twice a week.
- Be gentle on your skin: Choose mild soaps, with pure ingredients and zero fillers or fragrances. Further, apply lotions and use towels with care, being sure to inflict minimal discomfort and irritation to the skin.