Skin Conditions and Eczema

The term “Eczema” refer to the group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema.

An estimated 10% to 20% of infants and about 3% of adults and children in the U.S are afflicted with eczema. Infants that develop eczema usually outgrow the condition by ten years of age. However, some individuals continue to be symptomatic throughout life.

Symptoms

Eczema causes itch that might be experienced globally all over the body.

Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brownish in colour. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected areas lighter or darker.

In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that often erupts on the face and scalp, though eczematous patches may appear anywhere.

Causes

Causes of eczema are unknown, but it’s believed to be an overreaction of the immune system to an irritant.

Families and bloodlines that are genetically prone to allergies have a predisposition to develop eczema.

In some patients, eczema arises only on exposure to the irritative substance. These can include household products like soaps and detergents, animal dander, and other common industrial products.

Stress has been implicated in making existing eczema worse.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is clinical and made by the bedside. There are no specific tests for “eczema” though tests for substance allergies are available.

Treatment

Treatment aims to control the symptoms of itching and prevent infections. Moisturizing creams and lotions are recommended and these should be applied after bathing while the skin is still damp. Cold compresses can also be used to relieve itching.

Medicinal products like hydrocortisone 15 creams and other prescription creams available from your doctor can help control the inflammation. If an infection sets in, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics.

For further symptom control, antihistamines are sometimes prescribed. Other more advanced forms of treatment include phototherapy with UV radiation and use of cyclosporin for very severe cases.

Prevention

The following will help prevent outbreaks of eczema:

  • Frequent moisturization of skin.
  • Avoidance of sudden temperature and humidity change.
  • Avoidance of sweating or overheating.
  • Reduction of stress.
  • Avoidance of scratchy materials such as wool.
  • Avoidance of harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents.
  • Avoidance of any known foods that cause outbreaks.

Active and conscious preventive efforts can help to reduce eczema occurrence.