Q:Can you please tell me what treatments there are for severe seborrhoeic eczema, apart from steroid creams? I have this condition over a large area of my face. T. L, Manchester.
A:We asked panel member Dr Jean Monro, founder of the Breakspear Hospital for Allergy and Environmental Medicine, and also Dr Keith Mumby, who wrote The Allergy Handbook.Both pointed out that there are different sorts of eczema, which shows up as inflamed, red, sometimes weepy eruptions on the skin. Seborrhoeic eczema is often hormonally related. Skin that tends to be oily, and becomes worse cyclically, in the case of women, can be prone to this trouble.
There is no one cause of eczema, just as there isn't one cause of other allergies. In young children, sometimes the problem is introducing food too early, particularly the common offenders wheat, dairy, eggs and corn. In some cases the problem is food, in others, pollutants, which are deposited in body fat and secreted in the seborrhoeic glands hence the name of the condition.
Besides these four, eczema can be related to allergies to other common foods, including fish or, in Keith Mumby's experience, potatoes.
If food isn't the problem, the eczema prone typically are deficient in several nutrients, including vitaminB6, zinc and essential fatty acids, such as evening primrose oil. Sometimes rubbing evening primrose oil directly on the skin and into the folds can improve the situation.
Another substance which exacerbates the problem is animal fat. It's a good idea to cut down on dairy products, fried foods and saturated fats from meats.
Although steroid treatment will only treat the symptoms, not the cause, they are sometimes used as an emergency first line of treatment. Both doctors say that eczema can be treated successfully once the offending substance is located and nutritional deficiencies corrected.