Eczema is also known as Atopic Dermatitis. It is a skin disorder in which skin becomes red, itchy, cracked, rough and inflamed. Eczema is a long lasting skin disease commonly found in children but can also occur at any age. Sometimes Eczema is accompanied by Asthma or Hay Fever. Eczema is not a contagious skin disorder. It is not curable but proper treatment and self care precautions can relieve itching problems. Eczema most often begins before the age 5 and can continue into adolescence and adulthood.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema signs and symptoms are not same in all patients. Common symptoms are:
• Dry skin
• Itching especially at night
• Red to brownish-gray patches on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows or knees and in infants, on the face and scalp
• Small bumps which can leak fluid when scratched
• Thickened, cracked and scaly skin
• Raw, sensitive, swollen skin due to scratching
Causes of Eczema
The specific cause of eczema is still unknown but medical research data shows that eczema can develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Children are more likely to develop eczema if one of parent is suffering from eczema. If both parents have an atopic disease, then the risk of developing eczema is much greater.
• Environmental Factors
Various environmental factors such as Irritants, Allergens and microbes can cause Eczema disorder. Irritants include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats and vegetables. Allergens include Dust mites, pets, pollens, mold, and dandruff. Microbes are bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses and certain fungi.
Women can experience increased eczema symptoms at times when their hormone levels are changing especially during pregnancy and at certain points in the menstrual cycle.
• Hot and cold temperatures
Very Hot or extreme Cold weather, high and low humidity and perspiration from exercise can cause eczema.
Dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products and wheat can also cause eczema disorder. In some children, food allergy is responsible for causing eczema.
Diagnosis of Eczema
• No specific lab test is required to diagnose eczema.
• Many times doctor performs physical examination and reviews medical history of patient to detect exact type of eczema.
Types of Eczema
There are many different types of eczema including:
• Allergic Contact Dermatitis
This is a skin reaction after contact with a substance or allergen.
• Dyshidrotic Eczema
This is an irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. It is characterized by blisters.
This forms scaly patches of skin on the head, forearms, wrists and lower legs. It is caused by a localized itch such as an insect bite.
• Nummular Eczema
These show as circular patches of irritated skin which is crusted, scaly, and itchy.
• Seborrheic Eczema
This type of oily, scaly and yellowish patches of skin is usually found on the scalp and face.
• Stasis Dermatitis
This is a skin irritation of the lower leg usually related to circulatory problems.
Treatment of Eczema
There is no permanent cure for eczema. The main aim of Eczema treatment is to heal the affected skin and to relive symptoms. Common treatment methods include:
Medication treatments include Antibiotics, Antiviral and Antifungal medications. The main goal of medication treatment is to control itching, to help in repairing the damaged skin, to fight skin infections and to control inflammation.
Various therapies include Laser therapy, counseling sessions and wet dressing therapies.
This is an effective and intensive treatment for severe atopic dermatitis. It involves wrapping the affected area with topical corticosteroids and wet bandages.
Laser or Light therapy
This is used for people who don’t get relief from medication treatment. In this therapy, sunlight and ultraviolet light is used. The simplest form of light therapy involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight. The UV laser is also used to provide relief from eczema symptoms.
Counseling therapy is very helpful for people who are embarrassed or frustrated by their skin condition.
Eczema is stressful, frustrating and embarrassing for adolescents as well as for young adults. It can disrupt sleep, routine work and even lead to depression. Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies such as taking daily warm bath, avoiding scratch, taking proper medicines, applying anti itch cream, wearing cool clothing, using humidifier and other precautions provide a great relief from the symptoms of Eczema.