Etiology: The careful student is struck by the great similarity, often apparent identity, of the many inflammations and exudations of the skin and the similarity of conditions under which these "different" affections arise. He is also struck by the fact that the supposed causes of a given skin affection often fail to produce it.
There exists an appallingly tragic ignorance of the constitutional background of skin affections. For that matter, we need not confine our statement to skin affections, since these are only a few of the affections (covered by hundreds of names) that grow out of toxemia and gastro-intestinal decomposition.
Affections of the skin occur as the direct and indirect result of a large number of visceral failures. Functional weakness and actual pathology of the stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys, nervous system, etc., frequently lead to eliminative efforts through the skin. These are also seen in rheumatism, gout, diabetes, etc.
Carbuncles, furuncles, and other skin eruptions seen in diabetic cases are explained by the saturation of the skin with sugar and, even if we grant the claim of bacteriologists that these things represent staphylococcal infection, the sugar saturation is necessary to provide a favorable nidus for the growth of microbes.
Pruritis and eczema occurring in a patient suffering from chronic interstitial nephritis is due to a failure of elimination through the kidneys. There is also an intimate relationship between gastro-intestinal disorders and such skin affections as eczema, pruritis, urticaria, acne, etc. These are frequently observed in association with and are seen to be influenced by digestive disturbances which involve decomposition of food and partial digestion.
Pruritis is often observed in connection with pathology of the liver, especially when jaundice exists; xanthoma and chronic jaundice are often associated. Eczema and gout are so common together that they have both been classed as belonging to the "gouty diathesis," while there is also a close connection between psoriasis and chronic arthritis.
It is often difficult to trace the relationship between eruptions and other skin symptoms and the internal failings and pathologies with which they are associated; but we may be sure that faulty digestion, incomplete metabolism, and deficient excretion, these growing out of bad dietary habits and other devitalizing practices, are the underlying causes of these skin affections.
Malnutrition, scrofulous conditions, and personal uncleanliness are frequent backgrounds for the development of skin eruptions.
Certain foods, such as strawberries and peaches, cause a skin rash in some people, when eaten. Oysters and shell-fish do the same with many people. Such people are said to possess an idiosyncrasy or hypersensitiveness to such foods. Some article of food is often blamed for trouble when it is the combination that is at fault. Cow's milk, particularly if sugar is added, is a common cause of eruptions in children. Any "disease" associated with digestive disorders and nutritive impairments, such as Bright's "disease," diabetes, rheumatism, uric-acid diathesis, ulcerative processes, child-bed fever, scrofula and menstrual disturbances, may be accompanied by skin disorders.
Serums and vaccines are frequent causes of skin eruptions. Serum rashes may be of different forms and degrees and may be apparently cured only to recur immediately in the same or other form. There are few skin "diseases" that cannot be produced by drugs alone. Morphine, turpentine, copaiba, chloral, iodine, salicylic acid, arsenic, the bromids, coal-tar products (most of which are used to reduce fever and "kill" pain), mercury, belladonna, formalin, digitalis, arsphenamine, veronal, tea, coffee, alcohol, insulin, etc., used internally, are frequent causes of skin "diseases." Belladonna produces eruptions resembling scarlet fever; mercury may produce eruptions simulating measles, while its eruptions are frequently called "syphilis." Many drugs produce urticarial eruptions (hives), papules (small bumps), pustules and even hemorrhagic (blood-filled) eruptions. Others produce scaling or desquamation of the skin. The prevention of drug and serum-induced skin affections is accomplished by avoiding the drugs and serums.
Such irritants as strong soaps, mustard, acids, cantharides or Spanish fly, croton oil, aniline dyes, iodoform, some salves, carbolic acid and other antiseptic and counter-irritant preparations and washes, cause skin trouble. Soaps, salves, lotions, antiseptics, etc., are best omitted from the care of the skin.
Mercury may be used as a medicine or may be absorbed from working in quicksilver mines, and mirror and thermometer factories. Arsenic may be absorbed from wall paper. Quinine is used in many hair tonics. Bromids form an important ingredient of Bromo-seltzer, so freely used in this land of "beverage" guzzlers. Paraphenylenediamine, used to color furs black, and quinine, used to make brown furs, produce skin troubles in fur workers and fur wearers. The artificial leather used in making hat bands and for other purposes may cause skin troubles. Phosphorus matches have been causes of skin trouble. Many face powders, creams, lotions, bleachers, whiteners, etc., cause skin eruptions.
Poison ivy, or poison oak, dogwood, sumac, poison primrose and certain nettles and other poisonous and irritating plants cause skin disorders.
Putrescent matter from decaying meats and vegetables, coming in contact with the skin may cause a local infection and give rise to skin eruptions of various forms.
Uncleanliness, the use of soiled diapers which have been dried without washing, allowing a baby to go for long periods without drying or cleaning it, etc., may give rise to irritation of the skin, with redness, rawness, soreness, pain, etc.
X-ray burns, radium burns, burns from so-called therapeutic lamps, sun burns, cuts, bruises, tearing, scalds, burns, friction from tight bands, garters, etc., and like thermal and mechanical injuries cause local trouble.
Not everyone develops skin affections from the above causes. Indeed, there are those whose skins seem to glow with health even when they are nearing dissolution. Even contact dermatoses do not develop in many who come in contact with the causitive influences. On the other hand, some are so constituted that skin eruptions develop on the slightest provocation. These have what the German school calls the exudative diathesis.
Care of the Patient: Skin eruptions, if not due to purely local causes, as in poison ivy, are eliminative efforts. No attention should be given to the eruption beyond obeying the impulse to scratch and keeping the skin clean. First, last and all the time, proper care of the skin consists in removing the morbid systemic condition toxemia and autointoxication that the eruption seeks to throw off. The first principle in dealing with skin affections is to deal with the internal conditions with which they are associated by removing and correcting the causes of these.
Functional impairments faulty elimination, digestive derangements, glandular defects, etc. growing out of enervation and toxemia, even skin eruptions due to allergy, necessitate the removal of the organismal impairment, for the systemic impairment and not the specific food, is the cause of the allergy. Only by removing the fundamental cause of allergy can we prevent the systemic degeneration that is otherwise inevitable in allergic individuals.
Weger says: "We have found psoriasis to respond to dietetic treatment in all cases. In some, a complete cure can be effected in four to six weeks. Cases of long standing occurring in people of low vitality may require six months or longer before the eruption disappears entirely. Excess of sugars and starches in the diet is the most important of food factors. The patches begin to fade at the end of a week of complete fasting and in two weeks they have usually disappeared leaving only a smooth, pink surface at the site of the lesion. * * * Once overcome dietetically there is no recurrence of psoriasis unless the patient returns to former habits of eating or becomes so enervated as to bring about the same kind and degree of toxemia as had previously existed. Psoriasis undoubtedly represents a toxic state and should be so treated." All so-called "diseases" are liable to recur, unless the habits of life that brought them on in the first place are understood and corrected.
This care will serve equally as well in boils, acne, herpes, eczema, and all the other inflammations of the skin. In herpes simplex, Weger says, there is "no constitutional remedy so effective as clearing out the intestinal tract and stopping all food for a day or two."
Besides fasting, proper diet and cleanliness, we find sun-bathing to be very beneficial in all skin affections. It is necessary to remove all causes of enervation.