Dermatitis refers to an inflammation of the skin, both external and internal. It is characterised by redness, swelling, heat and pain or itching. Any part of the body may be affected by this disease.
The genital areas and the exposed areas such as the eyelids, forearms, face and neck are more prone to it.
The cells of the epidermis ( the surface layer of the skin ) are normally protected from damage by the tightly packed squamae of keratin of the horny layer. The elasticity of keratin varies with its water content. This water content can be reduced by evaporation or by removal of the lipid with which it retains moisture. Substances which produce inflammation of the epidermis or dermatitis by mechanical or chemical disruption of the horny layer are called irritants.
Degreasing agents like soaps, if used too frequently over a short time, will cause dryness, redness, fissuring and irritation of the skin in almost everyone.
The appearance of dermatitis varies according to its severity and the stage of its evolution. The first symptom is erythema or redness. This is usually followed by swelling of the skin due to oedema( excessive fluid retention ). Vesicle may appear thereafter .In case of their rupture, their bases exude serum. This condition is known as weeping dermatitis. Later, the serum dries up to form crusts. IN some people the disease seems to come and go without any great change in the skin itself.
Chemical substances usually give rise to dermatitis. They may reach the skin from outside or from inside through the blood-stream. About 100 different plants are known to be capable of causing dermatitis in susuceptible persons. The onset is usually acute and begins an hour or two after contact. Dermatitis may be caused by external contact with mineral irritants. This includes most cases of industrial dermatitis which arise on the hands or forearms which actually come in contact with the irritant.
Certain drugs applied externally such as atropine, belladona, carbolic acid, iodine, mercury, penicillin, sulphonamides, sulphurs, tars and turpentine sometimes cause dermatitis. Other substances causing this disease include hair dyes, bleaches, skin tonics, nail polish, perfume, wool , silk, nylon, floor-wax and various detergents. Other causes of this disease are indiscretion in diet, deficiency of vitamin A and pantothenic acid , and nervous and emotional stress.
As dermatitis may appear due to varied causes, treatment also varies accordingly. If, however, the trouble is constitutional arising from internal causes, the patient should commence the treatment by adopting an all-fruit diet for at least a week. In this regimen, he should take three meals a day of juicy fruits such as orange, grapes, apple, pineapple and papaya at five hourly intervals.
After an exclusive fruit diet, patient may adopt a restricted diet for ten days. In this regimen, breakfast may consist of orange juice or grapefruit. Raw salad, consisting of vegetables available in season, with raisins, figs or dates may be taken for lunch and dinner may consist of steamed vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, along with a few nuts or fresh fruit. Mild puddings and desserts such as jellies, jams and pastries, all condiments, spices, white sugar, and white flour and products made from them, tea, coffee and other stimulating drinks should all be avoided.
After the restricted diet, the patient should gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet, consisting of seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits. The emphasis should be on fresh fruits and raw vegetables. IN case of a severe condition, the patient should undertake a fast on fruit or vegetable juices for three to five days. This may be followed by a restricted diet for ten to fifteen days. Further fasts and a period on restricted diet at intervals may be adopted after the resumption of a normal diet.
The warm water enema should be used daily to cleanse the bowels during the first week of treatment and thereafter as necessary. Epsom-salts baths may be taken two or three times a week. The affected areas may also be bathed twice daily in hot water with Epsom salts. About 100 grams of Epsom salts should be added to a bowlful of hot water for this purpose. A little olive oil should be applied after Epsom-salt bathing.
The patient should avoid white sugar, refined carbohydrates, tea, coffee, and other denatured foods. He should make liberal use of fruits and vegetable juices. The combined juice from apple, carrot and celery is especially beneficial in the treatment of dermatitis. About 175 ml. each of these juices should be mixed to prepare 525 ml. of combined juice.
No medicines of any kind should be used. In case of trouble due to external causes, the most effective treatment consists of applying a mixture of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda ) and olive oil. The alkaline sodium neutralises the poisonous acids formed in the sores and oil keeps the flesh in a softened condition.
The patient should undertake moderate physical exercise, preferably simple yoga asanas after the fast is completed and the start of the restricted diet. Exercise is one of the most valuable means for purifying the blood and for preventing toxaemia. The patient should also have adequate physical and mental rest and fresh air. He should avoid exposure to cold, and adopt regular hours of eating sleeping.
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