How Does Hard Water Affect Eczema?

Eczema is a condition that can cause certain skin symptoms that can be physically uncomfortable and have an impact on your self-esteem. Knowing more about the condition and the role that hard water might play could be beneficial in reducing your symptoms. It is important to explore some of the research and have a firmer grasp on what the science has to say.

What is Eczema?

Throughout the world, it is estimated that eczema affects approximately one to three percent of adults and 15 to 20 percent of children, according to a report published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. Eczema is a skin condition that can result in itching and redness of the skin. People of all ages can be affected and there is no known cure. However, there are treatments that have shown to be effective, including avoiding things that might trigger your symptoms.

The symptoms and their location tend to vary greatly among those with the condition. They might include:

  • Skin itching that might be much worse at night
  • Raised and small bumps that might crust over and leak fluid if you scratch them
  • Due to scratching, the skin might become sensitive, raw or swollen
  • Dry skin
  • Patches on the skin that can range from brownish-gray to red in color
  • Skin that is cracked, thickened and scaly

The treatments used depend on the severity of the condition and what a patient responds to. Keeping the skin hydrated, utilizing certain topical ointments as needed and avoiding known irritants is typically what is used to reduce a person’s symptoms.

Hard Water, Eczema and Children

King’s College London led a study that explored hard water and its potential to cause eczema in children. According, to this study, the level of water hardiness in a home may be linked to children developing this skin condition at a young age.

This study was performed in the UK. In the south, domestic water is often considered to be harder than it is in the northern areas. The prevalence of this condition seems to be more common in the southern areas where water is harder. Similar studies were conducted in Japan and Spain and the results were similar when looking at the prevalence of eczema in children who are school age.

Another study that can be found in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology explored damage to the natural barrier of the skin, chlorine concentrations and water hardness and infant eczema. This study consisted of approximately 1,300 infants. The study concluded that at three months old, the risk of eczema was increased by approximately 87 percent when the infant was living in an area with hard water.

Hard Water, Eczema and Adults

Many of the studies done have looked at how hard water affects childhood eczema or might increase the risk of development. However, some research has been done to explore hard water and how it might impact eczema in adulthood. A dermatologist, Dr. Sharon Wong, stated that in adults, hard water does not simply cause eczema. However, if an adult already has this skin condition, it is commonly found to be a factor that might aggravate a person’s symptoms.

Eczema can lead to compromising the natural barrier that helps to keep the skin healthy. When this barrier experiences a loss of integrity, such as with eczema, the minerals present in hard water might worsen eczema and inflammation by acting as skin allergens.

Softening water might also benefit skin in another way. Some of the most common skin irritants in those with eczema are detergents and soaps. When you bathe or launder in soft water, you usually need less detergent or soap. This might result in fewer symptom triggers, helping to reduce symptoms and keep a person’s skin healthier and clearer. This would be true for both adults and children.

How Eczema Might Benefit from Soft Water

Soft water might offer a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing eczema. For some, hard water might be a trigger that might make someone more prone to eczema. It might also worsen the symptoms in those who already have the condition. The minerals present in hard water might have a negative impact on the skin and when it is already affected with eczema, the pre-existing damage might make it easier for the hard water to cause further issues. It is important to talk to your doctor to determine if hard water might be a trigger and if softening your water could be of benefit to you.

Why You Should Look Into Treating Your Hard Water

If you have hard water in your home, you should consider consulting a professional who can come and effectively test your water. By treating your water to soften it, you might help to improve your eczema while removing certain possibly harmful contaminants from the water in your home. It is often noticed that the symptoms of eczema are lessened when someone starts to use softer water.

Softening your water is not a hard task and it is something that you can achieve in your home with very little time. There are multiple ways to treat your home’s water, but it is important to ensure that you are using the best. After having your water tested by a professional, they will give you the best recommendations for your home. In many cases, several techniques will be utilized to ensure that your water is adequately treated, including a water softener, water filter and a system with reverse osmosis. It is important that the water treatment in your home is done by a professional to ensure the results you need for improvement.

You can see that there is strong evidence to support that hard water and eczema do not mix. So, in addition to any treatments prescribed by your doctor, softening your water might also be beneficial. If your skin symptoms are unexplained, you should consider speaking to a doctor since this was not written by a physician.

Image credit: CC BY-SA James Heilman, MD

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