Eczema, which is medically called atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition marked by itchy and inflamed patches of skin. Eczema is common in younger children and typically occurs in faces. It also commonly appears inside the elbows and behind the knees of children and adults.
According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), 31.6 million people in the U.S. have some form of eczema and about 9.6 million children have eczema — with one-third having moderate to severe cases of this ailment.
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Causes of Eczema
A combination of factors could cause Eczema, such as genetics, abnormal functioning of the immune system, environmental irritants, and activities that cause the skin to be more sensitive. Defects in the skin barrier, which allows moisture out and germs in, may cause eczema. Things that normally irritate the skin can also cause eczema-like soaps, perfumes, cleansers, makeup, solvents, and cigarette smoke.
Allergies are often related to Eczema. It can run in families and can develop alongside other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. To add to this, food allergies in young children can cause severe eczema.
Symptoms of Eczema
Atopic eczema causes the skin to become itchy, cracked, dry, and sore. In some people, there are patches on the skin where it appears. In other cases, it can cause widespread, inflamed skin. Inflamed skin becomes red on lighter skin and brown, purple, or grey on darker skin. Atopic eczema often affects the hands, insides of the elbows, face, scalp, and backside of the knees.
People suffering from atopic eczema usually have periods when the symptoms are less noticeable and then have flare-ups where it becomes severe.
Itchy sensations usually prompt scratching, which may lead to an itch-scratch cycle. Unconsciously, one might keep scratching. Scratching atopic eczema may lead to further problems. Correct treatment will relieve itching and help lessen the symptoms.
Types of Eczema
- Discoid Eczema: It is a type of eczema that occurs in circular or oval patches on the skin.
- Contact Dermatitis: This is a type of eczema that occurs when the body comes into contact with an irritant.
- Seborrhoeic Eczema: In this type of eczema, red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, and scalp.
- Dyshidrotic Eczema (Pompholyx): This type of eczema causes tiny blisters on the palms of the hands.
- Varicose Eczema: This kind of eczema is caused because of improper functioning of blood-carrying nerves in the legs and affects the lower half of the legs.
Treatment of Eczema
Treatments for eczema can only help to ease the symptoms, although there is no cure. In many children, the symptoms naturally improve as they get older.
- Emollients (moisturizers) can be used every day to hydrate and lubricate the skin.
- Creams and ointments containing topical corticosteroids are prescribed by doctors. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups.
- Bandages or special bodysuits can be recommended to allow the body to heal underneath.
- Antihistamines can be taken to relieve itching.
- Other treatments like topical pimecrolimus and tacrolimus are prescribed in case of severe eczema.
- Good skin care can help prevent atopic eczema in infants, which means that the skin should be kept moist. After a shower or bath, a thin layer of an emollient should be applied to the wet skin to inhibit the evaporation of skin moisture.
- Is atopic eczema contagious? No. Although atopic eczema can be inherited, it is not transmissible from person to person.
- What are the first symptoms of atopic eczema? Swelling, oozing, and crusting of the skin are all signs of atopic eczema.
- Does atopic eczema usually occur on the scalp first in children and adults? No, it doesn’t occur on the scalp first. Since many children slobber at young ages, the saliva evaporates and dries out the skin of the face — producing dermatitis on the cheeks. In adults, eczema most commonly affects the skin folds opposite the elbows and knees. The neck, wrists, and ankles often have lesions too.
- Can atopic eczema mimic other skin conditions? Atopic eczema must be distinguished from a wide variety of other cases of weeping, oozing dermatitis. Many of these seemingly similar conditions require different forms of treatment.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!