A few months ago, I was on a visit to my sister’s place. During dinner one night, my teenaged nephew Aarav, rolled up his sleeves
Chronic Skin Conditions
to understand how it’s linked to health
The Hidden Struggles of Living with Chronic Skin Conditions
Radhika, a 15 year old teenager, recently developed pimples and acne. Ever since, life has been an arduous and emotionally taxing journey for her. Each day presents her a new battle, making social interactions an anxious endeavour. The mirror serves as a reminder of the visible marks left behind, fuelling feelings of self-consciousness and isolation.
Radhika is plagued by questions. What is happening to my skin? Why is my skin texture so bad? Why do I have bad skin? She asks herself. And the more she asks, the more it haunts her.
She desperately wants to cure herself. She has tried a plethora of creams and medicines – even those based on steroids– but to no avail. She is now beginning to accept that her pimples and acne are a part of her – something she must live with forever.
This is not the story of just Radhika, but many others. It is estimated that one-third of the world’s population is affected by chronic skin diseases. If you look around you, there are many people like Radhika who could have skin problems ranging from something as simple as a pimples and acne to more complicated chronic conditions such as Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea and Hives.
At Wellfinity, we have witnessed first-hand with our clients, the devastating toll that chronic skin conditions can take on quality of life and mood. From not being able to sleep due to uncomfortable itchy skin, to depression caused by the psychological impact of a chronic visible symptom, they face it all.
However, it might surprise you to know that their real problem is not the skin condition itself, but the wrongful diagnosis and treatment of it.
In this blog, we will elaborate on some common skin conditions, assess their physical and psychological impact, discuss their treatment and diagnosis and talk about the support and resources at the disposal of people suffering from skin conditions. But first and foremost, you must understand what your skin says about your health and how.
The ‘Why’ of Skin Problems
The skin is the largest organ in our body. It acts as a protective barrier and safeguards us from harmful toxins, microbes, germs and harmful UV rays. It also contributes to the production of Vitamin D, regulates body temperature and performs numerous other functions.
The skin consists of three layers. The outer layer is called the epidermis, the underlying skin is called the dermis, and then there is the subcutaneous tissue.
The epidermis is equipped with the protective barrier composed of cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides. It helps to retain moisture within the skin. Not only is hydration one of the signs of healthy skin, it is also one of the key aspects to maintain overall wellness.
But when this barrier becomes damaged or compromised, it loses its ability to retain adequate moisture. This results in various skin problems.
Moreover, all skin problems are inherently linked to an internal issue. That is to say, skin conditions are external symptoms of an internal problem. Such underlying problems may be related to the immune system, gut, nutrition, environment, toxicity etc. Thus, treating the symptom is not enough. Skin conditions need to be solved at the root cause.
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Unveiling Chronic Skin Conditions
There are numerous types of skin diseases, but in this section we will discuss the most common ones such as Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea, Acne and Hives. We will elaborate on the symptoms of each of these and the challenges faced by the people who suffer from them and also address some common questions.
If you have Acne, you probably have a lot of questions going through your head. You what to know what causes Acne, does dry skin cause acne or what is acne prone skin.
Well, Acne is a skin problem that predominantly affects teenagers and young adults. It can arise from various factors such as hormonal changes, bacterial infection, or accumulation of dead skin cells. Acne manifests as whiteheads, blackheads, nodules, pimples, and cysts, commonly appearing on the face, upper back, shoulders, neck, and chest. If left untreated, acne can lead to dark spots or scarring.
Acne-prone skin is often more tender to touch. It you get frequent breakouts, you could say you have Acne prone skin. Usually, oily skin is more prone to Acne and the oil glands of the skin produce comparatively more sebum than other skin types. However, if you have dry skin, you could still get Acne if your skin is exposed to environmental toxins or apply chemical-based lotions and serums that block the pores and lead to irritation and inflammation.
When there’s something not right with your skin and someone tells you it might be Eczema, the first questions you want to Google are: what is Eczema or and what does Eczema look like?
Well, Eczema can affect people of all age groups, whether they be infants, children, teenagers or adults. It is characterized by itchiness and inflamed patches of dry, scaly skin that may appear white or yellowish and tend to flake off. If you have Eczema, it is crucial to avoid scratching the skin as it causes thickening of skin and can exacerbate irritation and potentially lead to skin infections.
Now that we know the basics, some of you would want to know what cause Eczema or is Eczema contagious? Well, although individuals with allergies are more prone to developing eczema, it is important to note that allergies do not directly trigger Eczema. It is also not contagious and is usually the result of underlying issues like leaky gut, abnormal gut flora, stress, gut inflammation, infections, nutrient deficiency and toxicity. If left untreated for a long period of time, it can lead to Psoriasis.
The frequently asked questions related to Psoriasis are – What is Psoriasis? What causes Psoriasis? What does Psoriasis look like? Is Psoriasis contagious?
Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin condition that results from an autoimmune disorder. It arises from immune system malfunction, resulting in widespread inflammation within the body. It is characterized by intensely itchy, red, and scaly skin. Some individuals may experience pain in the affected areas, while others primarily suffer from itching. Psoriasis commonly manifests on the scalp, elbows, knees, or lower back.
The first questions you would have round Rosacea are, what is Rosacea or what causes Rosacea. To put it simply, Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes small, pus-filled red bumps to develop on the nose, forehead, and cheeks. It follows a cyclic pattern, where symptoms may come and go over time. During flare-ups, the skin can become inflamed, leading to sensitivity, scaling, swelling, and the appearance of broken blood vessels. The affected skin may thicken, and individuals may experience bloodshot, watery eyes and increased sensitivity to light. Like most skin conditions, Rosacea is also caused by an underlying chronic condition.
- Hives / Urticaria
If you suspect you might have developed Hives on your skin, you want to know what are Hives in skin and what causes Hives on skin? Well, Hives are characterized by a vascular skin response, resulting in the formation of red or white welts that are frequently accompanied by itching.
These welts typically vary in size and may appear and disappear repeatedly. When hives persist for more than six weeks or recur over an extended period, they are classified as Chronic Urticaria (CU) or chronic hives.
While these hives are not contagious or life-threatening, they can cause discomfort and disrupt daily activities, sleep, and eating, particularly when located around the mouth or lips. As said earlier, Hives also occur due to underlying problems that may be related to the immune system, gut, nutrition, environment, toxicity etc.
The Physical Impact: More Than Skin Deep
Chronic skin diseases can have a greater negative impact on your quality of life than any other chronic condition. Pain and discomfort can hinder you from engaging in physical tasks or activities. It can also be an occupational hazard as you are prone to flare-ups of symptoms and regular health care visits that cause missed workdays.
Coupled with costly medical appointments, prescription medications and healthcare insurance, your skin condition can impose a substantial financial strain on you. To make matters worse, sometimes societal stigma associated with visible skin conditions can affect your chances of obtaining or maintaining steady employment.
Certain skin symptoms are also linked to other chronic conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, anxiety and inflammatory bowel disease. These additional ailments can contribute to higher rates of illness and fatality.
The Invisible Wounds: Psychological Impact & Social Struggles
People suffering from various skin conditions are likely to suffer from challenges like low self-esteem, struggles with body image, anxiety, depression, social isolation, sexual dysfunction and even suicidal thoughts.
Like in the case of Radhika mentioned at the start of this blog, teenagers who have Acne are known to have social phobia and exhibit elevated levels of anxiety, depression and self-harm. This is because a patient’s perception of his or her condition is significantly shaped by the societal attitude towards their conditions.
Judgement and stigmatization from others coupled with the patient’s own feelings of shame and embarrassment can hinder the formation of relationships with romantic partners, friends, or family members.
At Wellfinity, we have come across several emotionally scarred patients who feel the need to cover their bodies for fear of being judged or worse, treated as untouchables. Research has consistently shown that such psychological stressors worsens the skin condition, thus creating a vicious cycle.
It is estimated that approximately 30% of patients seeking treatment at a dermatology clinic have an accompanying psychiatric disorder that further complicates their condition.
Thus, we understand that putting the patient at ease about his chronic skin disease is of utmost importance. Therefore, our treatment to skin conditions at Wellfinity includes cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques, and habit reversal therapy.
Treatment of the psychiatric and psychological components associated with chronic skin conditions helps us improve patient outcomes.
The Right Approach to Treating Chronic Skin Disorders
When you have a skin condition, you would obviously want to know how it can be cured. At Wellfinity, we often get questions upfront like – How to cure Eczema? How to cure Acne under skin? How to treat Rosacea? Or how to get rid of Rosacea permanently?
In your search for a cure, most of you resort to conventional medicine. However, the conventional medical approach typically focuses on reducing the symptoms of skin disorders. Most of the treatment targets the skin, rather than looking deeper and identifying and treating the root cause(s).
Such treatment usually involves application of medicated creams and ointments, use of antihistamines, laser therapy, light therapy, administration of antibiotics, vitamin and steroid injections and other prescription drugs.
Patients like Radhika may experience periods of relief but eventually, the condition can flare-up again as the root cause has not been eliminated.
On the other hand, an integrative, holistic, functional medicine approach considers the underlying root cause(s) of a chronic skin disorder. These may include:
- Persistent infections such as fungal, viruses, parasites, yeast, and bacteria that affect either the skin microbiome or the gut microbiome
- Accumulation of bacteria within skin pores and hair follicles
- Allergies or sensitivities to environmental factors, food and beverages
- Increased levels of inflammation
- Increased toxic load coupled with impaired detoxification processes
- Imbalanced hormones
- Weak immune system
- Histamine sensitivity
- Gastrointestinal issues like IBS, SIBO, IBD, or chronic constipation
- Conditions affecting other systems such as the immune system, kidneys etc.
- Deficiency of nutrients such as zinc, essential fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin D etc.
- Lifestyle factors such as stress
A holistic, integrative, functional medicine approach looks at different ways to help transform your skin disorder(s) and restore normalcy, which otherwise is difficult through conventional treatments.
The treatment protocols for skin issues that we have designed at Wellfinity with our members successfully includes the following:
- Anti-Inflammatory and whole foods diet:
Consuming an unhealthy diet which is mostly comprised of processed foods, refined grains and sugars, leads to systemic inflammation. Prolonged inflammation contributes to development of acne, dry skin, redness and rashes.
An anti-inflammatory diet mitigates chronic inflammation and promotes restoration of skin health. Such a diet comprises of foods that have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in abundance along with adequate protein and healthy fats.
- Balance gut microbiome:
Scientific findings emphasize that there is an interconnection between gut health and various other crucial aspects of our overall well-being.
Recent studies have revealed that the condition of our gut can manifest on our skin in numerous ways. This remarkable relationship is known as the gut-skin axis, where issues ranging from blemishes to flushing can be traced back to the gut.
When the bad bacteria in the gut outnumber the good bacteria, you may develop skin conditions. At Wellfinity, we have clearly seen a strong linkage of a mix of pathogenic (bad) bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections linked to almost all skin issues.
- Address leaky gut and reduce systemic or local inflammation
Likewise, in case you have a leaky gut, your food remain undigested, leading to putrification and fermentation. Moreover, pathogens from outside can enter the gut and lead to inflammation and infections.
Increased intestinal permeability drives immune dysfunction coupled with local and systemic inflammation. Gut inflammation can impair the integrity and protective function of the epidermal barrier. This in turn leads to a decrease in antimicrobial peptides produced in the skin, and an increase in the severity of infection and inflammation in the skin.
- Replace deficient & insufficient nutrients
Nutritional deficiencies & insufficiencies can cause skin problems like acne, rashes, dry skin, small bumps on back of arms etc. Functional medicine works to determine and fix any nutritional deficiencies you may have, like vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E or omega 3 fatty acids.
- Reduce toxic load
Food sensitivities, chemicals (like detergents, soaps, dyes or perfumes), latex, dust & dust mites, heavy metals, mould and anything else that can trigger skin issues needs to be avoided.
- Balance your hormones
Hormone detoxification and balancing are necessary because Androgen can cause oily skin and acne and when Estrogen begins to decline, the skin becomes itchier and drier.
- Skin hydration
When the skin is well hydrated, it maintains its elasticity and remains plump and supple. When it is exposed to the sun, the bacteria on the skin die. Moreover, stress and the ‘H-P-A axis’ (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) also need to be optimised.
Support and Resources Provided By Wellfinity
We at Wellfinity, assist in determining the underlying cause of your skin problem. We find out whether it is linked to an autoimmune disorder, a digestive disorder, a hormonal imbalance, a deficiency in nutrients, or sensitivity to certain foods or a combination from these or more. For instance, in Radhika’s case, we would take her food habits, nutrition, inflammation, gut condition and toxic load etc. into account, in order to arrive at the root cause.
Once we gain insight into the root cause of your disorder, it enables us to facilitate transformation in your skin. For instance, you have acne, blisters, breakouts or bumps. We find that the root cause is inflammatory bowel disease that has affected your digestive system. We treat the IBS to restore normalcy in your skin.
We also provide psychological therapies such cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques, and habit reversal therapy that are essential for the treatment of your condition and also help you cope with the phase. Comprehension, recognition, and treatment of the psychiatric and psychological components associated with prevalent chronic skin conditions helps us improve patient outcomes.
Thus, we see that skin problems are linked to an internal issue or pre-existing chronic condition(s). They affect you quality of life both economically and socially and have an even worse bearing on your mental health. We all want to get rid of our skin condition, but the problem with the conventional approach is that it treats the symptoms only, without considering the underlying condition(s) that maybe the root cause(s). Therefore, an integrated, holistic, functional medicine approach to treat skin conditions is the need of the hour for a sustainable cure.
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