Eczema is a group of conditions which make your skin inflamed or irritated with the appearance of red patches on your skin. The most common type of Eczema is Atopic Dermatitis which means the person can have Asthma or Hay fever. This condition is very common and can affect anyone in any age group.
This condition mostly begins in the infancy of the patient and continues into adulthood of the person. Eczema is not contagious and does not spread from one person to another. There is no known and definitive cause of Eczema but it can be triggered in people due to various reasons.
Since the cause of Eczema is not known there is no diagnostic test for the diagnosis of Eczema. It is diagnosed by the examination of the skin and history of the patient. This condition is not completely curable but its symptoms can be managed such that the person is able to lead a normal life without any difficulties.
Eczema occurs as a group of Skin disorders, the most common of them being Atopic Dermatitis. This condition is often present in children since their birth and the condition flares up due to the presence of various allergens. This can lead to the onset of red patches on the skin and the skin of the patient becomes dry and cracked.
A rash may also develop in these patients which may or may not be itchy. The rash can lead to oozing of fluid from the open parts of the skin which can attract other infections. Eczema can also develop at later ages in a person. The cause of the development of Eczema is still under research hence there is very little information available on the condition.
There is no complete cure of the disease and the patient only receives symptomatic relief. The article given below will cover all the details of the condition such as its types, triggering factors, diagnostic methods, treatment methods, preventive measures and complications of the condition.
Types of Eczema
There are five known types of Eczema which can affect human beings. These are as given below.
- Atopic Dermatitis- In this type of Dermatitis, the skin becomes dry, itchy and develops a red rash.
- Contact Dermatitis- This type of Dermatitis occurs when the skin is exposed to certain triggers such as food allergies or synthetic fabrics.
- Dyshidrotic Dermatitis- Dyshidrotic Dermatitis often affects the fingers, palms and soles of feet of the person. The skin becomes itchy and scaly. The scales can fall off leaving red, cracked and painful skin.
- Nummular Dermatitis- This condition is marked by the presence of round, red and itchy scales on the skin. It mostly affects the legs of the person and is usually caused by a break in the skin of the person.
- Stasis Dermatitis- This condition also affects the lower legs of the person and is caused due to poor blood flow in these parts.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema can present a number of symptoms which can appear anywhere on the body of the patient. The following symptoms may appear on the body of the person.
- Dry and Cracked skin with scaly appearance.
- Extreme itchiness
- Rash or swelling on the skin
- Small bumps
- Oozing and crusting of the skin
- Thickening of the skin
- Darkness around the eyes
- Sensitive skin due to Scratching
The colour of the skin of the rash will depend on your skin colour. The symptoms can occur on any part of your body but are most commonly seen on your face, neck, arms, legs, hands and feet. Mild symptoms can go away on their own but severe symptoms require treatment and medications.
Causes of Eczema
The exact cause of Eczema is not known but it has been proposed that it can be affected by the following factors.
- Immunity of the person- Eczema can develop as an overreaction of your body’s immunity to foreign objects. This overreaction can start an inflammatory response in your body which can lead to the onset of the symptoms of the disease.
- Genetic History- It has been theorised that Eczema occurs because of a genetic mutation which affects the proper functioning of your skin’s function. This also increases your risk of developing Asthma and other allergies. You can also pass on Eczema to your descendants.
- Emotional Triggers- Many emotional factors can also lead to the onset of symptoms of Eczema in adults. This can be Stress, Anxiety or depression.
- Environmental triggers- Eczema can also start in an adult when they come in contact with an object which irritates their immune system. This can be air pollutants, smoke, fabrics, etc.
Triggering Factors of Eczema
Eczema can flare up due to many reasons. When your body comes in contact with a foreign object which alarms your immune system, then the immune system will respond by causing inflammation in your body. This can lead to the onset of the symptoms of Eczema. Some of the triggering factors for Eczema are given below.
- Dry Weather
- Synthetic fabrics
- Makeup and Skin care products
- Smoke and Air Pollutants
- Stress, depression and Anxiety
- Food items such as peanuts, dairy and eggs
- Pollens and dust in the air
- Temperature variations
- Excessive sweating
- Rough fabrics such as wool
- Upper respiratory infections such as Asthma
- Strongly scented perfumes and deodorants
Diagnostic Methods of Eczema
In most of the cases, the diagnosis of Eczema can be made when the patient is a child. However, some patients develop Eczema when they are adults hence they are diagnosed when the symptoms arise in the patient. Your doctor will conduct the following tests in order to diagnose your condition.
- Medical History- Your doctor will first take your medical history in order to determine whether you have any existing allergies or not. This can include a set of questions regarding the objects that you came in contact with and whether you have experienced your symptoms before or not.
- Allergy Test- Your doctor will then conduct an allergy test to determine which factor has flared up your Eczema. This includes a patch test in which a number of common allergens are applied to your skin to see which of them causes an immune response in your body.
- Blood Test- This will be conducted in order to rule out other conditions which may have caused the rash on your skin.
- Skin Biopsy- This test is done when the diagnosis of Eczema has been confirmed. It helps the doctor to distinguish one type of Eczema from the other types.
Treatment of Eczema
A dermatologist or an allergist will be the one to provide you with a treatment plan for Eczema. Treatment of Eczema includes medications, therapies and lifestyle changes.
- Antihistamines- These medications are prescribed to relieve itching on the skin. These medications block the allergic reactions by blocking the action of Histamine. These medications include Cetrizine, diphenhydramine and fexofenadine.
- Steroid Creams- Cortisone and steroid creams can be used to relieve the symptoms of itching and scaling. However long term usage of the creams can lead to the thinning of the skin and irritation.
- Immunosuppressants- Immunosuppressants are prescription medicines which are given when your immune system is overreacting. This prevents flare ups of the disease but long term usage can have side effects such as cancer, infections and high blood pressure.
- Therapies- Light therapy or Phototherapy may be used for the treatment of Eczema. This uses ultraviolet light to prevent the action of the immune system which triggers the symptoms of Eczema. This treatment is often used along with the medications for the treatment of Eczema.
- Cryotherapy- You may also apply an ice pack or a cold compress on the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. This can soothe the affected area and relieve itching.
- Lifestyle changes- Many lifestyle changes can be made in order to prevent the emotional triggers which lead to the onset of the symptoms of Eczema.
- Breathing Exercises- Breathing exercises can be taught to the patient so that it can help them to manage their stress.
- Yoga- Yoga is a type of exercise which includes a set of postures to induce the relaxation of the patient.
- Meditation- The patient of Eczema may also start meditation. This will help the patient to deal with stress, anxiety and depression which can trigger the symptoms of Eczema.
- Good Night’s sleep- A person must get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night in order to allow their body to heal. This also helps the person to manage stress and other mental problems.
Prevention of Eczema
Eczema can not be prevented as the exact cause of the disease is not known however you can prevent the flare ups of the disease so that it does not interfere with your daily life. The following methods can help you to prevent the flare ups of the disease.
- Moisturising your skin daily- Always moisturise your skin in order to prevent dryness. Choose a product which is suitable for sensitive skin, does not have any fragrances and is easily affordable. Apply the moisturiser at least twice to your body.
- Take a bath daily- Avoid taking long baths with hot water as this promotes dry skin in your body. Always take showers with warm water and for a maximum of 10 minutes.
- Use gentle soaps- Use gentle soaps which are not too scented as they can remove too much of your skin and lead to dryness of your skin.
- Pat yourself dry- Do not wipe yourself to dry yourself after a bath instead pat yourself gently to dry your skin. Always apply a moisturiser after taking a bath.
- Reducing your stress- Avoid too much stress as it can lead to a flare up in your symptoms. You can start meditation and yoga in order to relax your mind.
- Avoid known triggers- If you have known allergies then you should avoid the known triggering factors as they can lead to an onset of symptoms of Eczema too.
Complications of Eczema
There are many complications of Eczema which can affect the daily life of the patient. Some of the common complications are given below.
- Sleeping problems- Many patients of Eczema suffer from insomnia or disturbed sleep which can affect their overall health badly. This can lead to problems in your daily life too.
- Infections- If you scratch the scales regularly, then bacteria can get trapped in your skin and lead to other infections.
- Asthma and Hay fever- Eczema can make you more susceptible to Asthma or hay fever, especially in children below the age of 12 years. This is most commonly seen in Atopic Dermatitis.
- Scaly skin- Repeated scratching can cause your skin to regenerate in patches and scales and over time these patches and scales become very thick.
- More types of Eczema- You can also develop other types of Dermatitis if you have been suffering from one type for long periods of time.
- Mental health conditions- Eczema can heighten the anxiety of the patient and also makes them more susceptible to depression. These mental conditions can cause a flare up in the symptoms of Eczema and thus it starts a vicious cycle.
FAQs Related to Eczema
Eczema is a group of conditions which make your skin inflamed or irritated with the appearance of red patches on your skin. There are five known types of Eczema which are Atopic Dermatitis, Contact Dermatitis, Dyshidrotic Dermatitis, Nummular Dermatitis and Stasis Dermatitis.
The exact of Eczema is not known but it can flare up due to many reasons. There are many triggering factors which make your body’s immune system overreact to them. These factors can be common allergens such as Food items, smoke, air pollutants, synthetic fabrics, etc.
There is no cure for Eczema but the symptoms of the patient can be managed through various medications and lifestyle changes. These treatment methods are mentioned in the article above. The patient should also try to avoid the known triggering factors so that the symptoms do not start in the first place.