What You Should Know About Eczema (and About Those Who Have It)

Even babies can develop eczemas (photo credit from http://www.essentialbaby.com.au).

Have you seen  someone who has red rashes and  blisters  that looked itchy as well?

That person probably has eczema, but before you make judge or shudder in disgust, here’s a few things you  should  know about this unpleasant looking skin irritation.

Even babies can develop eczemas (photo credit from http://www.essentialbaby.com.au).
  • Eczema is a general term for many types of skin inflammation and contrary to belief, it is not caused by unhygienic practices. However, there are many different forms of eczema.
  1. Atopic dermatitis, is a skin disease characterized by itchy and inflamed skin. This condition tends to come and go, depending upon exposures to triggers or causative factors.  The triggers may (allergens) include environmental factors such as molds, pollen, or pollutants; contact irritants like soaps, detergents, nickel (in jewelry), or perfumes; food allergies; or other allergies. This condition tends to run in families, and are prone to this condition are those who have other allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
  2. Contact eczema (contact dermatitis) manifest as redness, itching, and burning in  localized areas where the skin has come into contact with an allergen or with a general irritant such as an acid, a cleaning agent, soaps, nickel, cosmetics, fabrics, clothing, perfume and other chemicals. It can become difficult to determine the trigger for this condition as it  is triggered by so many allergens. People who have a history of allergies have an increased risk for developing contact eczema.
  3. Seborrheic eczema with signs of  yellowish, oily, scaly patches showing on the scalp, face, and occasionally other parts of the body, though not necessarily associated with itching ,  is a form of skin inflammation  that tends to run in families. Emotional stress, oily skin, infrequent shampooing, and weather conditions may  increase an individual’s risk of developing seborrheic eczema.
  4. Nummular eczema (nummular dermatitis) is characterized by coin-shaped patches of irritated skin — most commonly located on the arms, back, buttocks, and lower legs and can be extremely itchy. This condition, though uncommon, occurs mostly in elderly men. A personal or family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, or allergies increases the risk of developing the condition.
  5. Neurodermatitis also known as lichen simplex chronicus can begin from a localized itch (such as an insect bite) that becomes intensely irritated when scratched which  can result to scaly patches of skin on the head, lower legs, wrists, or forearms. Over time, the skin can become thickened and leathery.  Women are more affected by  this condition than men, and the condition is most frequent in people 20-50 years of age.  Stress can aggravate the symptoms of neurodermatitis.
  6. Stasis dermatitis is a skin irritation on the lower legs, generally related to the circulatory problem known as venous insufficiency, in which the function of the valves within the veins has been compromised.  It appears as  itching and/or reddish-brown discoloration of the skin on one or both legs and can progress to blistering, oozing skin lesions seen with other forms of eczema, and skin ulcers in the affected areas. The risk of developing stasis dermatitis increases with advancing age with the condition occurring almost exclusively in middle-aged and elderly people, with approximately 6%-7% of the population over 50 years of age.  Stasis dermatitis, alsoreferred to as varicose eczema can lead to circulatory problems such as  fluid buildup (edema) in the legs.
  7. Dyshidrotic eczema (dyshidrotic dermatitis) is an irritation of the skin on the palms of hands and soles of the feet characterized by clear, deep blisters that itch and burn. The cause of this condition in unknown, but it is more common during the spring and summer months and in warmer climates. Males and females are equally affected, and the condition can occur in peo ple of any age.
  • Eczema is most common in infants, and about 85% of those affected have an onset prior to 5 years of age, but generally eczema can affect people of any age, up to 20% of children and 1%-2% of adults are believed to have eczema.
  • Eczema will permanently resolve by age 3 in about half of affected infants but in others, the condition could recur throughout life.
  • Eczema is slightly more common in girls than in boys.
  • It could occur in people of all races though studies show that Asians and blacks visit the health care offices more frequently for atopic dermatitis than whites.
  • Eczema is not contagious, but since it is believed to be at least partially inherited, it is not uncommon to find members of the same family affected. People with eczematous dermatitis have a variety of abnormal immunologic findings which are probably related to more than one genetic defect.  Research have shown that affected individuals tend to have elevated IgE antibody (immunoglobulin E) levels and have difficulty in fighting off certain viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.
How is eczema prevented?
The best way to prevent is to  know one’s triggers  and avoiding  them as much as possible. Changing your detergen, soap or perfume if you have to. In cases  wherein the cause is undetermined or you simply can’t avoid  the trigger (i.e the weather wherein it will be difficult to move in somewhere with a different type if weather) the next alternative  is  to manage it at home by:
  • Take warm baths to prevent dry skin.
  • Use a mild soap or body cleanser.
  • Apply an effective emollient to your wet skin after each bath, when you skin is still damp.  Emollients inhibit the evaporation of water. Generally, they are available in jars and have a “stiff” consistency. They do not flow and ought to leave a shine with a slightly greasy feel on the skin.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting, rough, or scratchy clothing.
  • Avoid scratching the rash. If you help scratching yourself, even when  you’re asleep, cover the affected area with clothe. Wear gloves at night to minimize the skin damage from scratching.
  • Avoid strenuous exerciseduring a flare as you tend to sweat more, and sweating can irritate the rash.
  • Clean the area with a hypoallergenic soap as necessary. 
  • Apply an nonprescription steroid cream (1% hydrocortisone) as often as possible, without skipping days until the rash is gone.
  • Take Diphenhydramine(Benadryl)to manage the itching but  be careful not to take this before driving or operating  heavy machinery. This medication may make you too drowsy.
  • Avoid physical and mental stress. Eat right, exercise and get adequate  rest to stay  healthy which can help prevent flares.
It’s time to see your doctor if:
  • the application of 1%hydrocortisonecream (available without a prescription) are insufficient to control the rash;
  • the itching causes so much discomfort that your daily activities get disrupted;
  • the skin gets so irritated that it breaks down and becomes infected;
  • if the rash has become red, hot, and painful;
  • if red streaks are coming from the rash; and
  • if you have develop a fever





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