What is Eczema?
Eczema is an inflammation of the skin characterized by dry, scaly, itchy, cracked, rough and patched skin.
Most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. Atopic means a collection of diseases involving the immune system while dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin.
Foods such as nuts and diary can initiate symptoms. Smoke, soaps and fragrances that constitute part of the environment can also trigger symptoms. Eczema is not contagious.
This condition eczema in some people can come and go whereas in others, it could continue all the way throughout adulthood.
Types of Eczema
The most common type is Atopic Dermatitis.
Other types include:
· Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Arises due to contact with a substance or allergen that isn’t acceptable by one’s immune system.
· Statis Dermatitis: This is skin irritation of the lower leg. It is usually related to circulatory problems.
· Discoid Eczema:Also known as Nummular Eczema. It is characterized by circular patches of irritated skin that can be scaly, crusted and itchy.
· Neuro Dermatitis: This is characterized by scaly patches of skin on the head, wrists, forearms and lower legs. Arises due to an itch from a particular area in the body such as an Insect bite.
· Dyshidrotic Eczema: refers to irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It is characterized by blisters.
Causes of Eczema
The main cause of Eczema remains unknown but many specialists are of the notion that it is influenced by the combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Also, Eczema can be passed on to children if there’s a family history or if a parent has the condition or another atopic conditions. There is a higher chance of having this condition if both parents have it.
Environmental factors that influence Eczema
· Microbes: Bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, viruses and fungi.
· Temperature: Very hot and cold weather conditions, high and low humidity, perspiration from activities can cause eczema.
· Irritants: such as soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants etc can cause flares in eczema.
· Stress: This doesn’t directly cause eczema but can worsen symptoms.
· Food: Dairy products such as eggs, soy products, nuts can cause flares in eczema.
· Hormones: Females most especially may develop more symptoms due to hormonal changes such as certain times during menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
Symptoms of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
Symptoms differ based on an individual’s age (someone who has it). Atopic Dermatitis is common in infants characterized by dry and scaly patches on the skin. These patches are often extremely itchy.
Rubbing and scratching continuously can cause skin infection. In many situations, eczema is usually mild.
Common symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis include:
· Dry, rough and scaly skin
· Skin flushing
· Open, crusted or weeping sores
· Redness of patches on the skin
Some of the symptoms of Eczema in dark skinned people could be different. People with more complicated form of eczema will need more attention and treatment to ease off their symptoms.
Often times, there are periods when symptoms worsen in people with this condition and could be accompanied by periods when symptoms go away and ease off.
Before the age of 5 years, most people develop this condition. However, an estimate of 60% of them no longer show symptoms when they attain adolescence stage. Symptoms that occur in infants, children and adults may differ.
Symptoms common (in infants below the age of 2 years) include:
· rashes on the scalp and cheeks
· rashes that leak fluid before bubbling
· rashes that cause extreme itchiness which may disturb sleep.
Symptoms in children
These symptoms are common in children above the age of 2 years.
· Lichenification (skin thickening) which can become a permanent itch.
· rashes that can become lighter or darker.
· Bumpy rashes: rashes that develop behind the creases of elbows or knees.
· rashes that develop on the neck, wrists, ankles and the lines between the buttocks and legs.
Symptoms in Adults
· More scaly rashes than those that happen in children.
· Skin Infections: rashes that develop on much areas or parts of the body.
· rashes that appear in elbow grease, knees or nape of the neck.
· Extreme skin dryness on affected areas.
· Permanently itchy rashes
Adults who may have developed atopic dermatitis as a child but no longer gets affected with the condition may still have dry or easily irritated skin, eczema of the hands and rarely eye problems.
The outlook of a skin affected by atopic dermatitis depends on how much a person scratches the skin and also if the skin is infected.
Also scratching and rubbing can irritate the skin further and increase skin inflammation that could worsen itching.
Treatment for eczema is targeted to heal affected skin and stop symptoms or worsening of symptoms. Eczema has no cure yet. Treatment is normally based on an individual’s age, severity of symptoms and one’s current health status.
For some people, eczema goes away with time whilst in others, it is a condition that lasts for a person’s entire life.
Some home care remedies for treatment include:
· Moisturizer application within 3 minutes of bathing to lock in moisture everyday
· Lukewarm baths
· Wearing cotton and soft fabrics
· Avoiding rough, scratchy fibers and tight-fitting clothing
· Using a mild soap or non-soap cleanser when washing
· Using a humidifier in both dry or cold weather conditions
· Keeping fingernails short so as not to scratch and break the skin
· Avoid rapid changes of temperature and activities that could cause sweating
· Air drying or gently patting the skin dry with towel rather than rubbing the skin dry after bathing or taking a shower.
Various natural remedies for eczema can also be used such as aloe vera, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar.
Several medications can be prescribed such as close monitoring throughout the treatment.
· Phototherapy: Exposure to UVA or UVB waves. This method can treat moderate dermatitis.
· Barrier repair moisturizers: This method reduces water loss and repairs the skin.
· Antihistamines: This reduces risk of scratching at night.
· Topical calcineurin inhibitors: This drug reduces activities of the immune system. It reduces inflammation and stops flares.
· Antiviral and Antifungal medications: This treats fungal and viral infections.
· Antibiotics: This is usually prescribed by a doctor especially if it occurs with a bacterial infection.
· Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments: These are anti-inflammatory medications that ease off major symptoms of eczema such as inflammation and itchiness. It can be applied directly to the skin.
· Systemic corticosteroids: This is usually prescribed by a doctor if topical treatments do not work. They are usually available as oral tablets or injections and should be used within a short period of time.
Although there is no cure to this condition, eczema flares can be treated using home care remedies, moisturizers, medications and also a change in lifestyle.
Each person affected by this condition should have his/her own treatment plan. It is important to keep up with whatever treatment that works for your skin even after areas of the skin affected have been healed else it becomes irritated again.