Finding the eczema factor

Steroid creams couldn't help one woman's skin condition, says David Mattin, but homoeopathy changed her life.

Caroline Grime has no memory of a life without eczema. According to her mother, the chronic condition started when Grime was 2. The accounting officer from Manchester, now 28, was always self-conscious about the inflamed, broken skin on her arms and legs, on her torso and around her neck and hairline.

Then there was the constant, maddening itch. “Eventually, I became used to always scratching and my sleep being interrupted,” she says. “I went to my doctor on numerous occasions. But in my mid-20s, my eczema became worse than ever. I scratched so much that my arms and legs bled and I developed an infection, for which I had to take antibiotics and days off work.”

The National Eczema Society claims that one in 12 adults in the UK suffers from eczema, a form of dermatitis that affects the upper layers of the skin. In atopic eczema, the skin develops a hypersensitive reaction to allergens, either airborne or consumed; the disorder is thought to run in families and is linked to other atopic (that is, allergic) conditions such as hay fever and asthma.

Although no one else in her family has eczema, Grime also suffers from both hayfever and asthma. Over the years, she was often prescribed the steroid cream Betnovate; although it helped to reduce the inflammation, it did not clear up the eczema. It was only after Grime suffered her worst flare-up three years ago that she decided to look elsewhere for a remedy. “A friend had had success with homoeopathy and she suggested Annie Hirsch’s clinic.”

Homoeopaths treat like with like. An illness, then, is treated with an ultra-diluted dose of a natural substance that will, in a healthy person, cause that illness to arise. Homoeopaths claim such medicines can stimulate the body’s own healing power. Most scientists, however, are sceptical about the effectiveness of homoeopathic remedies, and many say they work no better than placebos.

Although Grime was aware of the scientific criticisms, it didn’t deter her. She arrived at Hirsch’s clinic in Manchester in April 2004, she says, with an open mind. And she admits: “I was desperate to find an effective treatment.”

Source - Times