Are you suffering from itchy, inflamed, cracked or red skin? You may be suffering from a skin condition referred to as eczema. Eczema is also termed as Dermatitis. It can begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and the condition ranges from mild to severe. Here we discuss everything about eczema, which you would want to know so that you can choose the right treatment.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is not a specific health condition. Eczema is a reaction pattern that the skin produces in several diseases. It begins in the form of red, raised tiny blisters containing a clear fluid atop red, elevated plaques. When the blisters explode, the affected skin will weep and ooze.
The skin problem starts with the face, then followed by the hands and feet. In the case of adults, the hands and feet tend to be the most commonly affected areas. There is a tendency for older children to get affected in the knee and elbow creases, ankles, neck, wrists, and feet.
In chronic cases, the blisters are less prominent, and the skin gets thickened and elevated. The inflammation damages the skin barrier leaving it dry and prone to itching and rashes. it is best to seek medical advice in severe cases.
Different Types of Eczema
Eczema is a common condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry, and red.
There are seven different types, namely atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis.
1. Atopic Dermatitis
Eczema atopic dermatitis is the most common form of the skin disorder. In most cases, it is a chronic skin condition. However, in the case of children, it can improve over time. Statistics have proven that about two thirds of children will grow out of it as they get older.
2. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is inflammation of your skin that results from the contact of an external substance with your skin. This can occur through one of two mechanisms: allergic or irritant.
A Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Around eighty percent of cases of contact dermatitis are caused by irritants and can occur as acute or chronic.
An irritant substance is one which causes inflammation when it comes in contact with individuals in sufficient concentration for sufficient time. Irritants cause direct injury to the skin. Irritant dermatitis is most likely to erupt on your hands.
B Allergic Contact Dermatitis
The remaining twenty percent of cases are due to allergens. In this case, your skin inflammation is caused by a hypersensitive reaction to a particular substance or group of related substances.
All areas of your skin that are in contact with the allergy-triggering substance develop the rash and its avoidance will result in resolution of the rash.
Nickel, fragrances, rubber, skin medications including topical corticosteroids and hairdressing chemicals are the most common allergens.
3. Dyshidrotic Eczema
Dyshidrotic eczema causes small, intensely itchy blisters on the palms of hands, soles of feet and edges of the fingers and toes. While its actual cause isn’t known, it is more common in people who have another form of the skin disorder and tends to run in families, which means that it has a genetic component.
This form of eczema starts with itching and burning sensations followed by a rash of painful, deep-seated blisters called vesicles. Flares appear only on the hands and feet. As blisters heal, the skin dries and becomes red and peels, thereby leaving it tender and dry and sometimes creating painful cracks or fissures.
4. Nummular Eczema
Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis, features circular lesions and patches which are itchy, scaly and crusty. It can occur at any age, and males tend to develop it more as compared to females.
It is triggered by very dry or sensitive skin and trauma to the skin from insect bites, scrapes or chemical burns. The coin-shaped lesions on arms, torso, legs are oozing liquid or have crusted over and the skin around the lesions is red, pinkish or brown, scaly as well as inflamed.
5. Seborrheic Eczema
Seborrheic dermatitis is also a form of inflammatory skin rash which results from overactivity of your sebaceous glands in the skin. Scaly, yellowish and oily patches on the skin, specially on the scalp and face is common among people with eczema.
6. Stasis Dermatitis
This type of skin disorder is related to circulatory problems and is characterized by skin irritation on the lower legs.
Neurodermitis is normally confined to one or two patches of skin and rarely goes away without treatment.
It is characterized by intense and continued scratching that can irritate nerve endings in skin, intensifying both itching and scratching.
It appears as itchy and scaly patches on the lower legs, forearms, wrists, and hands. Over time, chronic scratching causes itchy patches of skin to become dry, leathery and thickened.
What Causes Eczema?
We do not know the exact causes of eczema. But research has proved that the skin disorder is triggered by an overactive immune system. When your immune system responds aggressively when exposed to irritants, then eczema can be noticed on your skin.
The symptoms are sometimes caused by an abnormal response to proteins that are part of our body. Normally, our immune system ignores proteins that are part of our human body. On the other hand, they attack only the proteins of external invaders, such as viruses or bacteria.
In eczema, your immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between the two, thus causing inflammation. Eczema flares up when one or more symptoms appear on your skin. Common triggers of eczema flare-ups include:
- chemicals found in detergents and cleaners and that dry out the skin
- rough, scratchy material, like wool
- synthetic fabrics
- raised body temperature
- temperature changes
- a sudden drop in humidity
- food allergies
- animal dander
- upper respiratory infections
Treatment For Eczema
The main goal of treatment is to eliminate itching, which is uncomfortable and worsens the other symptoms. Treated eczema does not take much time to heal. However, you can manage some very mild cases of this skin disorder by avoiding likely sources or triggers of irritation or by the use of emollients such as special bath oils and moisturizers.
1. Eczema and Medication
You can use corticosteroid creams and ointments of different strengths for reducing itchiness and redness. Extra care should be taken when you are applying a strong corticosteroid as it can cause the skin to become thin. You must apply only a thin smear to the rash, preferably after a bath, as the skin is more absorbent. Unless it is prescribed by a doctor, you should refrain from applying a corticosteroid on the face.
You can use steroid free medication such as Pimecrolimus cream or Elidel to treat inflammatory skin conditions. It is a prescription drug that you can apply to affected skin on the head, face, and around your eyes. These are the areas where you cannot apply corticosteroid creams.
Antihistamines cause drowsiness which is useful at night to get some sleep which otherwise can be interrupted by irritation. In severe cases, you can use medications to suppress the immune system.
The likelihood of catching a skin infection by bacteria or yeast is high due to the skin that has damage. You can use antibiotics in the form of skin cream or in the form of syrup, capsules, or tablets to treat the bacterial infection. Similarly, you can use antifungal medication to treat fungal infections.
2. Eczema and Phototherapy
In cases of severe cases, phototherapy, or ultraviolet light treatment may be recommended. In phototherapy, the affected area is subjected to controlled exposure to UVA and/or UVB rays for a few minutes, twice or thrice a week. This course of treatment can continue for several months.
3. Eczema and Diet Therapy
Excluding certain foods are very effective in treating this skin disorder in some children. Make a note that, not all children respond to diet therapy.
4. Skin Treatments for Eczema
There are various skin treatments that we are offering at REPC which mostly include:
Moreover, to learn more about other skin conditions as well as treatment options, don’t forget to check our blog posts covering:
Quick Tips to Prevent Eczema
If you follow these quick tips, it may help you alleviate the symptoms and prevent future flares of eczema:
- Try to use moisturizer at least twice a day, even when you have no symptoms.
- You should apply moisturizer while your skin is still moist especially after a bath or shower – to help retain the moisture. If you add oil to bathwater can also help to moisturize dry, eczema-prone skin.
- Discuss in detail with your doctor the different types of moisturizers available. With time and some experimentation, you can find the best product.
- Avoid wearing woolen or synthetic clothes. Instead, wear pure cotton or cotton-mixture clothes.
- Judiciously avoid using soap, especially deodorant or antibacterial soaps. Instead, you can try using a mild, non-fragranced emulsifying ointment, liquid cleanser, or water-dispersible cream.
- You should take shorter showers or baths and prefer using warm water instead of hot water.
- After bathing, gently pat with your soft towel rather than rubbing your skin dry.
- You must avoid taking foods that trigger allergic reactions like eggs, peanuts, seafood, soy, milk, and chocolate.
- Environmental factors, such as sunlight, heat, and cold, can irritate the condition. If this is the case with you, avoid them as much as possible.
- Use a humidifier in winter and summer.
- Cotton mittens and bandages can be helpful to stop scratching at night.
- You should keep your fingernails trimmed short so as to reduce the damage caused by scratching.