Inflammation has been in the news quite a bit lately. It has both positive and negative effects on health. Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a necessary and important function of the body. It is one of the ways by which the body responds to external pathogens, irritants, or traumatic injury. It delivers immune cells, oxygen, and the body’s natural chemicals to the affected area via the bloodstream in order to help with healing and repair. It also increases temperature in the local area to help destroy any foreign invaders, such as bacteria. The classic signs of inflammation are pain, redness, swelling, heat and loss of function. Inflammation can occur in any of the soft tissues of the body that are nourished by blood vessels, including internal organs and skin.
If the inflammatory response within the immune system is too active, it may also trigger allergies and some autoimmune diseases. Because of this over activity of the immune system, instead of having a positive effect, there will be too much pain and damage to the tissue. Tissue damage is also partly a result of free radicals, molecules with unpaired electrons that are a by-product of the inflammatory reaction. These free radicals tend to destroy anything within reach, including your cellular DNA. Chronic, persistent inflammation is thought to be one of the causative factors in the formation of certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
In terms of skin disorders, topical corticosteroids (steroids) have been the gold standard of treatment for the past 50 years. Prednisone is one of the most commonly prescribed steroids. It can be used either by applying directly to the skin surface, or in more severe cases, as an oral or injected medication. In addition to steroids, there are other types of immunosuppressant drugs that are also prescribed for inflammatory skin disorders, depending on individual circumstances.
Topical steroids have many benefits for skin inflammation, but they may also have undesirable side effects, most of which occur after prolonged use. The steroids work to inhibit inflammation by constricting the blood vessels in the local area. However, over time, the skin may develop tolerance – the skin is no longer as reactive to the medication, and a stronger dose is needed in order to have the same effect. Other side effects include thinning of the skin, stretch marks, allergic reaction, and glaucoma if used around the eyes. Also, after use of topical steroids is halted, the original symptoms tend to return worse than ever before.
You might ask: how is Chinese medicine different from steroids in the treatment of inflammation? First of all, Chinese medicine does not suppress the immune system. It harmonizes it. If there is a weakness in the body, Chinese medicine will strengthen it. If the immune system is too active, it will calm it down so that it is able to return to normal function.
Chinese medicine can be a great alternative to steroids in treating skin disorders. Chinese medicine is gentle, yet very powerful and effective, and it has none of these undesirable side effects. The only downside is that herbal treatments require some patience and persistence. It tends to take a bit longer than steroids to have the desired result. In the end, your efforts will be well worth the wait. When balance is restored to your body, the reward is better health. Who can argue with that?