Ask a person who suffers from any form of skin disease about the prolonged duration (sometimes for years together) of treatment and the dissatisfactory results achieved. They would probably tell you stories of how they have run from pillar to post in search of effective treatments. A cause for concern is the use of steroid medications for certain dermatological conditions, which as we know has long-standing systemic effects.
What then can be done to treat the myriad of skin conditions that affect populations across all age groups? For this, first, we need to understand the different types of dermatological conditions. Here’s a look at some of the common skin conditions frequently encountered by medical practitioners.
Bacteria, virus, parasites, allergic reactions, and autoimmune conditions may cause skin lesions. Acne remains the most common skin disease among adolescents. The common occurrence in this age group is due to hormonal fluctuations combined with factors such as lifestyle and diet that facilitates the growth of bacteria, leading to skin eruptions. Acne can be of different types- pustular (pus-filled pimples), papular, cystic and more. Oily skin and inadequate maintenance of personal hygiene can worsen the condition. Affected individuals usually undergo treatment for several months to years with antibacterial creams/lotions as well as oral medications. Nonetheless, the resultant scarring and unevenness in skin tone persist for several years after the active stage of acne subsides, thereby necessitating further treatments to address the cosmetic concerns.
Another common condition is dermatitis, which is a general term that describes skin irritation. Symptoms of dermatitis include itchy, dry skin or a rash on swollen, reddened skin. At times, the skin may blister and cause oozing, crusting, and flaking. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a chronic condition that tends to flare periodically. As with acne, topical antibiotics, corticosteroids are advised for management of eczema. Similarly, psoriasis results in red, dry, scaly skin. Symptoms of this condition tend to worsen in dry, cold weather; therefore, patients experience added discomfort during winters.
We all are familiar with ringworm and other fungal infections that can be highly contagious and cause skin lesions. Fungal skin infections can occur on any part of the body, but appear more commonly in areas where sweat retention is more, for example, armpit, between toes (due to continuous use of socks and closed shoes), in the groin area, and scalp. The lesions appear as rings or patches with a clear/white centre and a rim of reddened skin. Itching and burning sensation are the most common symptoms. Treatment involves the use of anti-fungal ointments and oral medications and maintenance of good personal hygiene.
The issue with management of skin conditions is that conventional treatment only targets the visible signs and symptoms. Agreed that antibiotics and anti-fungal medications kill or inhibit the activity of the associated microorganisms; however, these are not definitive solutions to prevent a recurrence. Moreover, corticosteroids are widely used in skin conditions where an autoimmune or increased immune response component is involved. We know that steroids tend to suppress the immune system; therefore, although the skin lesions are remedied within a short duration of treatment, there is a high chance of recurrence when the drugs are stopped. Moreover, long-term use may prove counter-productive. The need of the hour; therefore, is a natural and effective therapeutic alternative. Bring in cell- and growth factor-based therapy!
Cell-based therapy is creating ripples in the world of regenerative medicine. The aim is to harness the innate healing mechanisms of our body, target the core pathology of conditions, thereby, achieve tangible results. Growth factor and cell-based proteins can be used topically or be administered locally to provide effective results in a variety of skin conditions. Let us look at some examples of skin diseases treated with this form of therapy.
Lipodermatosclerosis: Skin and connective tissue disease that occurs due to inflammation of the layer of fat under the epidermis. The condition is associated with increased body weight and immobility, commonly in older women. The symptoms of the condition are swelling, pain, and plaques on the skin, which may ulcerate as the condition progresses.