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How to Treat Dermatitis With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

itchy skin dermatitis eczema
Itchy skin might be some type of dermatitis.

Itchy skin, dry skin irritation, or skin rash? Dermatitis is a broad term that covers many skin problems, including eczema, heat rash, diaper rash, and other kinds of skin allergy. Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to treat dermatitis, eczema, and itchy skin conditions.

The medical term “dermatitis” can refer to many types of skin irritation that involve inflammation. Inflamed skin can cause itching, redness, dryness, and rashes. A dermatitis itchy skin rash is caused by an inflammatory response related to the immune system.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common inflammatory skin condition; over 30 million people in the U.S. have some type of eczema. Eczema can show up as early as a few weeks after birth in some babies, or during childhood, or during adulthood.

While what exactly causes atopic dermatitis to occur in some people is not completely understood, it is generally accepted that it is a combination of genetic, immunological, and environmental factors.

Dermatitis is not contagious; it is not passed from person to person. However, you are more likely to be susceptible to dermatitis or eczema if other people in your family have it, or if there is a family history of allergies and asthma.

Eczema and other forms of dermatitis tend to “flare up” when a person is exposed to some sort of trigger and has an allergic reaction. This could be due to something in the environment, or some product or plant that touched the person’s skin. It can also be due to internal causes, like an autoimmune problem, excess heat in the body, or emotional stress.

Signs of Dermatitis:

  • Itchy dry skin rash skin irritations (pruritus)
  • Red rash, red bumps on skin
  • Rash like a burn
  • Blisters
  • Thick skin, hard skin, swelling
  • Scaly skin, creasing skin 
  • Crusty sores, painful skin sores
  • Bleeding rash, oozing skin rash
  • Flaking skin (dandruff)

Symptoms of dermatitis can come and go. Scratching at itchy patches or blisters associated with dermatitis can cause a skin infection, so it is important to manage and control this condition.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help relieve itchy skin and inflammation, while also helping to balance the immune system to prevent further eczema flare ups.

Top 10 Types of Dermatitis

skin rash dermatitis eczema neck
Dermatitis rash on back of neck

Many different conditions can cause dermatitis—meaning, inflammation of the skin. Different kinds of dermatitis include:

  1. Atopic dermatitis – also known as eczema, marked by dry, itchy, red patches of skin.
  2. Contact dermatitis – this is when a skin rash breaks out due to exposure to some kind of external irritant, such as a cosmetic product, piece of jewelry, or plant like poison ivy.
  3. Seborrheic dermatitis – flaking skin, also known as dandruff, occurs mostly on oily areas of the skin.
  4. Dyshidrotic dermatitis – (also called dyshidrotic eczema or pompholyx) small, itchy, fluid-filled blisters that appear on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands, or the tips of the fingers or toes. The blisters may break out due to exposure to an allergen or when hands and feet are often wet or sweaty.
  5. Diaper rash – a red rash that forms on a baby’s bottom or perineal area due to contact with the diaper and frequent wetness.
  6. Neurodermatitis – (also called lichen simplex chronicus) is a type of eczema marked by one or two very itchy, scaly patches that can become thickened and leathery – most often affects an area on the neck, ankle, arm, or groin. Neurodermatitis can itch so intensely that it affects a person’s sleep, and can be triggered by stressful events.
  7. Nummular dermatitis – (also known as discoid eczema) is marked by round, coin-shaped lesions that appear on the limbs or torso. These lesions can become infected with scratching, and may be related to poor circulation.
  8. Perioral dermatitis or Periorificial dermatitis – pink scaly patches or pustules that form around the mouth. This occurs more commonly in young women. Some doctors believe it may be related to candida, and/or influenced by hormones.
  9. Stasis dermatitis –  (also called venous stasis dermatitis) itchy, scaly, discolored skin around the lower legs and ankles, due to poor circulation and blood pooling in the lower extremities.
  10. Dermatitis herpetiformis – a bumpy, blistered skin rash (looks similar to a herpes outbreak, but is not actually related to herpes simplex) that is related to celiac disease, triggered by ingesting gluten or wheat. 

Psoriasis can look similar to eczema, but it is a separate condition that can coexist with various types of dermatitis. Rosacea redness can also look similar to dermatitis, but is a distinctly different condition that can occur at the same time as dermatitis. 

What Causes Dermatitis?

A combination of the immune system reacting to irritants in the environment, and genetic predisposition.

Common environmental factors that can contribute to dermatitis include:

  • Chemicals
  • Air pollutants
  • Fluoride in water or toothpaste
  • Fragrances, perfumes, air freshener
  • Fragrances in skin products, cosmetics, lotions, soaps
  • Tobacco smoke

Other conditions that may occur simultaneously with dermatitis include: depression, anxiety, insomnia, allergies, and asthma.

Eczema Treatment

There are many different types of medical treatment for dermatitis. Some are topical—meaning, applied to the skin. Others are taken in an oral pill form, or injected into the skin.

Topical corticosteroid creams, which can help reduce skin inflammation, are the most common treatment for eczema and dermatitis. These can help reduce itching and swelling. However, prolonged use of topical steroids can cause side effects like thin skin, spider veins, and acne. Steroids can affect growth in children, and can cause eye problems like glaucoma or cataracts in older people.

Steroids that are taken orally, like Prednisone, can help control systemic inflammation for a time, while patches of scaly skin heal. However, there are many serious side effects associated with taking steroids for a long time, and it is also possible to experience a “rebound effect.” This means that the dermatitis symptoms come back even stronger when a person stops taking the steroid medications.

Calineuron inhibitors and JAK inhibitors are designed to stop certain chemical processes in the body related to immune responses. They can help block immune system reactions to calm the dermatitis skin problems. 

There are many new types of treatment for eczema being developed. Phototherapy, or light therapy, using ultraviolet (UV) light, may be tried when topical treatments are not working for eczema that is widespread over the whole body. However, this kind of therapy can cause prematurely aging skin, changing skin pigmentation, and potentially increase the risk of skin cancer.

Acupuncture and TCM herbal supplements offer a way to treat eczema without any damaging side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Dermatitis and Eczema?

One of the core concepts of TCM is the 5 Elements Theory, according to which organs of the body correspond with seasons and weather conditions. According to this theory, eczema and other kinds of dermatitis arise due to imbalances within the internal organ systems affected by external conditions, such as Wind and Heat. 

The lungs, especially, are connected to the skin in the TCM system. The lungs can be affected by excess heat or stagnation in the liver. Thus, an itchy red rash on the skin is actually an expression of a deeper, more complex internal condition. Therefore, it is necessary to treat dermatitis and eczema not only with topical creams, but to use acupuncture and herbs to balance all of the organ systems.

The acupuncturist gets clues about which internal organs are out of harmony by observing the eczema symptoms: the type of rash or scaly skin, the color and temperature. Each individual case of dermatitis is unique, triggered by different irritants, and arising from a person’s overall state of health.

One study showed that acupuncture treatment worked better than antihistamines for helping to reduce the itchiness of atopic dermatitis pruritus. Acupuncture also helps to reduce inflammation and overall stress.

Studies done in China to determine the efficacy of an herbal formulation developed for eczema showed that it worked well to reduce itching and recurrence of rash.

As systematic review of over 350 studies on acupuncture for eczema showed the patients who were given acupuncture treatment instead of conventional treatment experienced better overall symptom reduction and quality of life.

Top 5 Tips to Prevent Dermatitis Itchy Skin

after bath dermatitis
Bathe in warm water and moisturize afterwards.

There are things you can do to help prevent eczema flare-ups from occurring and avoid recurrent rashes.

  1. Do not bathe in very hot water. 
  2. Keep showers short and warm, and use gentle cleansers, without strong chemical perfumes. 
  3. Do not scrub your skin during or after the shower, while drying. Pat gently.
  4. Use moisturizer frequently to maintain a protective layer on your skin. 
  5. Wear long pants and sleeves when hiking and adventuring. Wear gloves when gardening.

Acupuncture Near Me for Dermatitis in Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Acupuncture can help relieve itching, aid in the healing of lesions, help stimulate healthier immune responses, and reduce stress. TCM treatment can also be sought as a safe treatment for children with eczema, or during pregnancy, as it is free of negative side effects.

TCM can also help patients with other skin conditions, including signs of aging, acne, hives (urticaria), rosacea, and psoriasis.





*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Acne With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

acne breakout pimples blemishes
Hiding pimples and acne scars? Acupuncture can help clear blemishes.

Acne breakout, pimples, blackheads? Painful cystic acne and acne scars can affect your confidence and even lead to depression. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative skin care option to treat hormonal acne and clear up blemishes.

What causes acne? Acne is a skin condition in which bumps on skin form when hair follicles become clogged with dirt and oil. Sebum, the natural oil produced by skin glands, builds up in the pores and causes blockages. Pimples may appear on the face or other parts of the body (back acne, chest acne, bumps on arms, pimples on scalp/scalp acne, etc.).

Acne is most common during the teenage years, but people of any age can experience skin breakouts. Acne is also influenced by fluctuations in hormones, reactions to cosmetics or foods, weather, and perhaps most commonly, stress.

Rosacea is another skin condition that typically causes redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels on the skin, but it can also cause red bumps to break out, similar to acne. This is known as “acne rosacea.”

Everyone gets a few pimples at some point in their lives. However, severe acne that causes scarring can have a serious impact on a person’s confidence in daily life, as well as being physically painful. 

There are many types of products and acne medication available, both over the counter or with a prescription, including: benzoyl peroxide, retinol for acne cream, acne patch, and acne face wash. 

Topical treatment for acne may clear blemishes on a skin-deep level. Acupuncture and other TCM skin treatments can help get rid of acne and other skin problems, like rosacea and eczema, by addressing the root causes: hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and stress.

Types of Acne

acne pimples scars treatment
Breakouts and blemishes can be caused by hormone imbalances.

Acne blemishes can show up in different forms. The most commons types of acne include:

  • Whiteheads – small, closed, white bumps that develop when a pore is clogged 
  • Blackheads – open bumps that are filled with oil and dead skin
  • Red bumps on skin – papules are hard, red, inflamed bumps on skin 
  • Pustules – a papule that has a pus-filled tip
  • Nodules – large, painful red bumps
  • Fungal acne or bacterial acne – when red bumps are caused by bacteria or yeast clogging the follicles
  • Acne rosacea – rosacea can cause acne-like breakouts in addition to red flushing
  • Cysts or Cystic acne – large, painful, nodules that are deep down, under many layers of skin

Cystic acne is considered to be the most severe type of acne. The deep, inflamed cysts can get very big, last a long time, and leave permanent scars. Cystic acne may be genetic, as it tends to run in families. 

Hormonal acne, which is also called “adult acne,” occurs because fluctuations in reproductive hormones like progesterone and estrogen and the stress hormone cortisol stimulate the overproduction of sebum. This kind of acne is most common among women in their 20s through their 40s.

Many women have breakouts that occur cyclically, coinciding with their PMS week or their period. Women may also experience pregnancy acne during the postpartum period. Women over 40 may have unexpected patches of pimples during perimenopause and menopause. Acne is also common among women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Advanced Dermatology Acne Treatment

dermatologist acne treatment
Dermatologists can recommend a variety of acne treatments.

Dermatologists have tools that allow them to help remove pimples, known as acne extraction or blackhead extractions. Injections of corticosteroids can help reduce inflamed blemishes.  Laser resurfacing can help minimize acne scarring.

A dermatologist can also provide acne medication. Cystic acne and hormonal acne will usually be treated with oral birth control pills to help manage hormone levels. Spironolactone is also sometimes prescribed; this is a diuretic, usually used to treat high blood pressure, that also has an effect on the hormones that control oil secretions.

Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is a medication used to treat severe acne, cystic acne, or nodules. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to help clear bacterial acne or fungal acne.

Many of these courses of treatment can cause unwanted side effects, and they do not get to the root cause of the hormone imbalance or internal toxicity.

TCM and acupuncture provide a way to get rid of acne that works from the inside out.

Can Acupuncture Help Acne?

According to TCM theory, skin problems reflect imbalances that originate deeper in the body. Heat and dampness are pathogenic forces that can take root in the organ systems. When heat “overflows” due to imbalances in the digestive or reproductive organs, the body tries to release some of the excess by allowing it to erupt out of the skin.

Acupuncture for acne can both help at the deeper, root level and on the surface of the skin.

We use meridian acupuncture points to target the internal organs that are creating toxic levels of heat or producing too much of some hormone. Then, we also use needles to stimulate the localized areas of the skin that are affected by the breakout and encourage healing. 

Acupuncture treatment for acne will often focus on clearing heat from the stomach, intestines, liver, and lungs. This will help lead to fewer breakouts.

Acupuncture needles can be placed on the face where blemishes occur. The tiny “wounds” created by the very thin needles bring blood flow to the area and encourage the body’s repair and rebuilding mechanisms. The thin needles create a micro-trauma that brings blood flow to the area and encourages the body’s repair and rebuilding mechanisms to kick in. This is why acupuncture is also effective as an anti-aging treatment and a good alternative to botox injections.

One study showed a 94% effective rate for patients given 10 sessions of acupuncture for acne. A systematic review of acupuncture treatment for acne concluded that TCM offered an alternative with fewer side effects than conventional medical treatment.

TCM skin care for acne is highly individualized. An acupuncturist finds clues about which organ system is out of balance by observing the placement and appearance of recurrent breakouts, in addition to other symptoms related to digestion, hormone cycles, and emotional health. Cupping is another TCM treatment that can help draw out toxins and excess heat and improve circulation. Herbal supplements and dietary recommendations will be based on each person’s individual situation.

Top 3 Tips to Get Rid of Acne Naturally

melon cooling foods
Cooling foods like melons help get rid of excess internal heat.

Reducing stress is probably the most important thing you can do to help stop breakouts from happening. It is also generally advisable to avoid or limit spicy or greasy foods. Here are some of our best tips for clear skin.

  1. Start your day by drinking a cup of warm water with slices of lemon.
  2. Eat cooling foods and avoid foods that produce heat. Melons, mung beans, and radishes are top choices, along with lots of greens and purple-blue berries and plums.
  3. Try a homemade skin mask made from cooked, mashed dandelion greens. Apply for 20 minutes to get rid of blemishes and redness. Dandelion is a natural antibacterial and antifungal herb and is also good for the liver.

Acupuncture Near Me for Acne in West Los Angeles

Acne affects almost everyone at some point in their life. Breakouts can have a negative impact on your self-esteem, especially when we live in a culture that is so focused on appearances. The best acne treatment involves reduction of stress and inflammation, good nutrition, and restoring internal balance. At Art of Wellness we have over 30 years of experience helping patients heal skin conditions of all kinds.




*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 



 





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