- Contact eczema: localized reaction where the skin has come into contact with an allergen
- Dyshidrotic eczema: irritation of skin on palms of hands and soles of feet
- Neuro dermatitis: scaly patches on the skin of head, forearms, wrists, lowers legs. Itching in a localized spot such as getting bite by a bug
- Nummular eczema: circular patches of irritated skin that can become crusty, scaling and itching
- Allergic contact eczema: reaction where the skin has come into contact with a substance that the immune system does not recognize
The cause of eczema is unknown but doctors have narrowed it down to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Eczema is also linked to the body’s overactive response by the body’s immune system to an irritant.
Some factors that can irritate the eczema are(MNT,2015):
- Irritants: soaps, detergents, shampoos, juices, fruits, meats and vegetables
- Allergens: dust, pollen, dandruff
- Microbes: bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus (a group of bacteria that can cause numerous diseases due to an infection of various tissues of the body,) certain fungi (the most common is Candida which is a strain of fungus that can cause skin infection)
- Environmental temperature: hot temperature causes the skin to become dry which causes the skin to become red and itchy. Cold weather also dries out the skin and the lack of moisture results in the dry, itchy skin.
- Stress: stress can cause the skin to become inflamed which is supposed to protect the skin from harm but if you already have eczema skin inflammation due to stress will cause the eczema to worsen.
- Hormones: Estrogen in women plays a big factor in the eczema condition. With the reduction of estrogen, and the changing ratios of the body hormones reduce the ability for the body to retain moisture.
Eczema is a very common skin disease in the US. Reported there is about 31.6 million people affected with eczema, with one out of three children with eczema/atopic dermatitis.
A study had shown that eczema in adults is around 10.2% (MNT,2015).The skin has three layers of protection, the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Together those three skin layers act as a skin barrier to protect from any harm such as cuts, pathogens, etc.
In healthy skin the skin protectant barrier is resilient and any allergens that try to penetrate deeper into the skin are unable to (Jaliman, 2015). Someone who is affected with eczema is prone to more bacteria and irritants penetrating deep which means the protective barrier is weak and defective. When the skin barrier is defective it decreases the proper level the skin needs to stay hydrated also causing more irritants to take affect such as soap, detergent, house mites, and infections.Eczema also affects the immune system. The protective barriers of skin help prevent any pathogens from penetrating the skin whereas the immune system fights off any unwanted pathogens that enter the body. When the skin is broken or inflamed in healthy skin the immune system takes action by sending white blood cells to help repair the damage and decrease the amount of inflammation (Jaliman, 2015).
Someone with eczema has that itchy feeling in the affected area which means they scratch it. The more irritant, such as scratching, there is to the skin the more inflamed it becomes which results in more white blood cells having to help reduce the amount of inflammation which as a result causes the skin to become more irritated, red and inflamed.Eczema has many signs and symptoms which ranges widely from person to person.
For some people, eczema flares up periodically such as during season changes. Some signs might include (MNT, 2015):
- Red to brownish color of the skin on the arms, feet, ankles, legs, chest, eyelids, wrists. On infants it can appear of the face and scalp
- Raised, small bumps which may leak fluid creating a scab
- Thick, cracking, dry, scaly skin
- Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching
- Rashes can appear anywhere on the body, in adults and older children, most often found on the neck. Infants may exhibit rash on the torso and face. It usually starts to appears in the areas where the child can rub against sheets
- If eczema appears on the eyes they become red and puffy
The red, inflamed and bumpy skin are common symptoms with the eczema condition. Because eczema causes the skin to be itchy, it causes an individual to scratch it which causes the affected area to become more irritated then the “itch, scratch, sore” cycle begins. In kids that cycle is common because they don’t know better than to not scratch it. Some signs to watch for when it does start to become more serious is (Skinsight, 2014)
- Losing sleep because the affected area is too uncomfortable or distracting from daily routines
- Skin is painful
- Skin starts to become infected (yellow scabs, pus, red streaks)
- When self-care techniques are not working (such as: Aveeno lotions, Boericke and Tafel Florasone Itch and Rash cream)
Eczema does look like a normal rash but to properly diagnosis this condition the dermatologist or doctor needs to begin by taking a look at the skin and will ask questions regarding the symptoms of the skin such as (MedicineNet, 2015):
- Is the rash itchy?
- Is there dry skin with red or scaly rash?
- If the rash has occurred in the past, is the skin thicker in that area?
They will also investigate into family history looking to see if anyone has been diagnosed with eczema or has had similar symptoms.
They look into if any blood relatives have had eczema, asthma or hay fever. Some dermatologist perform a patch test (MedicinceNet, 2015). This test is used to find allergies. The patch test involved tiny amounts of allergens on the patient’s skin, then the doctor will check for any irritants. Another test they may perform is a blood test. A small sample of blood is drawn from the arm and tested for high levels of eosinophils, cells in the blood that are part of an immune reaction. Blood levels that are elevated in this test are usually people who are affected with eczema antibody.
Taking good care of your skin will involve taking warm (not hot) showers or bath on a regular basis and immediately applying lotion or moisturizers afterward to help the skin retain moisture and avoid drying out. There are many over the counter medications and some therapies that help treat eczema which include (MNT, 2015):
- Creams that control itching and inflammation: A doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid cream
- Creams that help repair the skin: some medications or creams used for other reasons can have side-affects the irritate your skin so the doctor may prescribe a cream that you rub over your skin to help increase the amount of moisture retained by the skin
- Drugs to help fight infections: Antibiotics may be recommended if a patient has a bacterial skin infection or open, cracked sore caused by scratching.
- Wet dressings: this is for more serious cases of eczema but this treatment involves wrapping the affected areas with topical corticosteroids and wet bandages. This has been proven to help reduce the symptoms and sign of eczema.
- Stress reduction therapies: increased stress can cause the skin to become irritated so some doctors may suggest seeing a counselor or suggesting some stress relieving exercises
When it comes to treating infants with eczema the treatment process needs to be more delicate due to their sensitive skin and immune systems. Some techniques that work are:
- Avoiding extreme temperatures
- Keeping the baby’s skin moisturized with bath oils, lotions, creams and ointments
- Keeping an eye on and skin irritations that may occur
- Eczema is a condition that can either improve after puberty or after taking good care of the skin and taking any measures to help prevent any irritating side effects. In some individuals that is not always the case, some cases it become chronic which results in occasional flare ups caused by temperature changes. Since there is no direct cure to eczema there are no real prevention measures that guarantee an individual not getting eczema.
There are some things to look into for any prevention measures such as: Looking into any family history or any eczema conditions
- In infants dress them in cotton clothes rather than any synthetic materials to prevent skin irritation
- Keep stress levels down as much as possible
- Eat a proper diet
- After swimming in adults and kids, properly moisturize after to keep the skin from drying out
Often times it is seen where an individual has eczema as a child then it disappears then has a flare up later on in adulthood. Eczema doesn’t entirely go away or have any treatment that helps clear the condition but as long as the individual takes proper care of their skin and follows any suggestions from a doctor and uses and medication eczema is a condition that can be controlled.Since there is no direct cure to eczema there are no real prevention measures that guarantee an individual not getting eczema. There are some things to look into though such as:
- Go easy on the soap: to avoid drying out the skin use soap on the parts of the body that really need it
- Seal water in with moisturizer: the best time is right when you get out of the shower. Gently towel dry off and add a generous amount of moisturizer.
- Go fragrance-free: the extra additives to lotions can cause irritation to the skin
- Wash the itch out of your clothes: use mild detergents, rinse your clothes twice when washing to clean away any trace of detergent.
Try to avoid fabric softeners, the fragrance can irritate skin.
- Bathe regularly with low temperature: keeping your body clean of any bacteria helps reduce the risk of bacteria getting into your skin also turning down the temperature of the water helps reduce the drying out of skin.
- Heal with hydrocortisone cream: if you skin does becomes inflamed and itchy, try an over the counter hydrocortisone cream to help reduce inflammation and relieve the itch
Eczema is a skin condition that becomes irritating to some and painful at times.
Though there isn’t a true cure for the condition there are many preventative measures one could take to reduce the chance of getting the condition. To some the condition is passed down from family members but there are many ways to keep the condition under control.