Skin is the most visible and the largest organ of the human body. Most common disorders of the skin are caused by not maintaining proper hygiene as it is the most exposed part of the body. The mainly affected areas are the face, hands, and legs. Skin also regulates body temperature, gathers sensory inputs from the environment, stores water, fat, and vitamin D, and plays a role in the immune system protecting from various diseases.
Modern medicine and its approach to skin problems:
Modern medicine has a specialized branch which deals with skin disorders known as Dermatology that includes medicinal treatment, surgical and cosmetic procedures. A dermatologist is a medical doctor which specialises in skin, nails, and hair. Sub-categories of Dermatology are Cosmetic dermatology, derma pathology, trichology, and paediatric dermatology.
Common Dermatological Conditions and symptoms:
- Acne – boils on face and back, red, pus filled mainly seen in puberty and adulthood.
- Atopic dermatitis – Red rash mostly appearing on back and hands but can appear anywhere on the body.
- Allergies- seasonal allergies, food or drug induced allergies which cause an immediate skin reaction when consumed.
- Bacterial infections – itching at the affected part with some blisters.
- Moles, skin tags – excessive growth usually appearing on neck, underarms etc.
- Herpes – viral infection that affects the immune system along with inflammation and severe burning sensation at the affected area.
- Urticaria – Hives are mostly allergic, develop sudden rash and itching.
- Eczema – Severe itching and dry patchy skin along with redness and inflammation.
- Psoriasis – Itchy scaly patches mostly begin on elbows, knees, and scalp. This is an autoimmune condition.
- Vitiligo – Lack of melanin producing pigment cells in the body that cause skin discoloration.
Common causes of Skin conditions:
- Bacterial and viral infections – Bacteria which gets trapped and grows in the open pores of skin, hair follicles etc. Viral infections such as Herpes, Folliculitis etc which affect the skin. Various fungi, parasites or microorganisms thrive on the skin if proper hygiene is not maintained.
- Hormonal changes – Hormonal imbalance is a commonly seen in urban females of the reproductive age. PCOD, irregular menstruation and even menopausal stages affect the skin and lead to acne and pigmentation.
- Weak immune system – A weak immune system makes an individual highly susceptible to acquiring various bacterial and viral infections, leading to skin disorders.
- Contact transmission – Contact with affected person’s skin can also cause skin diseases.
- Lifestyle – Poor dietary choices such as untimely meals, lack of sleep, eating calorie rich foods and stress are commonly seen in the urban population which lead to poor hair and skin.
- Medications – Long term use of certain medications such as blood thinners, birth control pills etc. also have side effects on skin.
Ayurvedic approach to skin conditions:
Ayurveda describes a wide range of factors responsible for skin disorders in addition to the cases mentioned in modern medicine. These factors include physical, physiological, psychological, and hereditary causes. The real causative factors are based on Tridosha imbalance which in turn vitiate the Rakta dhatu (Blood and lymphatics) and cause various skin diseases.
Ayurvedic classification of skin diseases depends on the Dosha dominance and location of the skin disease. The most difficult to treat skin disease as per Ayurveda is known as Kushtha in Sanskrit and it can be loosely compared to Psoriasis.
Treatment modalities in Ayurveda for skin diseases:
Ayurveda has a holistic approach to Skin disorders which includes therapeutic medicinal ways, Panchakarma that is a detoxification process, and finally lifestyle and diet guidelines that prevent the recurrence of the disease.
Ayurvedic herbal formulations are used internally as well as for external applications. Various herbs which act as a blood purifier, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial in nature are used for therapeutic measures, some of them are:
- Aloe vera
These herbs are commonly used in the form of decoctions for consumption and for local applications such as dressing of the affected area and as ointments. Herbal medicines also are prepared in the form of tablets and capsules which contain the extracts of herbs and are highly potent skin rejuvenators.
Ayurveda has a set of five unique therapeutic procedures which help in the complete detoxification of the body. Use of Rasayana is recommended after complete detoxification. Tridosha balancing therapies that are useful for treatment are:
- Virechana – Therapeutically induced purgation is used to remove excess Pitta from the body. It is incredibly useful for Psoriatic conditions, redness, and inflammations.
- Lepan– Application of medicated herbal pastes or ointment on the affected area is called Lepan. This paste is usually made with fresh herbs with a soothing base of aloevera, turmeric, sandalwood, vetiver etc and is cleaned off after it dries completely. This procedure is easy to do and sometimes even advised to be done at home for the patients.
- Rakta mokshana – Removal of impure blood especially from the affected areas is known as Rakta Mokshana, or bloodletting. It is highly recommended in infected area by Psoriasis and Eczema.
- Agnikarma – Agni refers to heat, which is cauterization techniques which is used to remove skin tags, foot corn etc. This process has also seen to be upgraded into radiofrequency lasers which are used in modern medicine for moles and skin tag removals.
Diet and lifestyle changes:
In the active stage of skin infections, Pathya’s wholesome diet is followed. Ideally, soup of green gram, rice and lentil curry, bitter-tasting foods are to be included. In the active and recovery phase, junk food, bakery items, sweet foods, oily, spicy, and fried food should be completely avoided as it further vitiates Pitta and Rakta.
Regular exercise is essential as it helps to release endorphins and releases deoxygenated blood. Post-exercise, the skin gets a natural glow which is a result of detoxification.
Hygiene is the most important factor for the prevention of skin diseases. Avoid sharing face towels and cosmetic products which have direct contact. Using natural skin products, avoiding the use of harsh chemicals, and changing different products frequently may also cause skin diseases.