eczema overview, symptoms, causes, treatments


Eczema is a chronic skin condition which leaves sufferers with scaly skin and itchy rashes that may become infected if scratched. Eczema symptoms can make many people feel self-conscious, which may then delay or prevent treatment.

Atopic eczema is the most common form of the skin condition. Other types include nummular and dyshidrotic eczema. Contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis are also included in this category.

Atopic eczema is a hypersensitive skin reaction similar to an allergy which causes the skin to become chronically inflamed. It has a hereditary component, meaning that several members of the same family are likely to suffer from this and other hypersensitivity issues such as asthma or hayfever. It is most common in infants, and in many cases infants outgrow the condition in their teens or in adulthood. Research suggests that certain kinds of animal companions influence the likelihood of developing eczema. The bacteria in your gut also affect the likelihood of developing this condition, through their influence on immune function.

eczema symptoms diagnosis

Eczema symptoms may arise upon contact with a specific irritant or allergen and last a short time. In other cases, eczema symptoms may include chronic itchiness of the skin with alterations in skin colour, blistering, weeping of the skin and crusting. Cracked skin can be extremely painful; bleeding may occur, and skin infections can develop.

Chronic Pruritis and Lichenification in Eczema

The itchiness of eczema can cause sufferers to scratch their skin until it weeps and is raw, red, and inflamed. Areas of atopic eczema can include the ears, eyelids, elbows, and the backs of the knees amongst others, and patients may unconsciously scratch such areas until they bleed, only stopping at that point. Chronic scratching of an area may lead to the development of thickened skin through a process called lichenification. This leatheriness of the skin may be accompanied by changes in skin tone and sensation.

Eczema Symptoms in Adults and Teens

Older children and adults are less likely to have atopic eczema on the face but may develop lesions on their neck, hands, feet, and inside creases such as the knees and elbows. Where a severe exacerbation of eczema occurs they may develop lesions at any point on the body with significant inflammation, itchiness, and pain from scratching and cracking of the skin. The development of itching may alert a sufferer to an impending bout of eczema as this can sometimes precede the overt signs of inflammation and the red, scaly skin rash.

Eczema Diagnosis

Eczema diagnosis is based on a detailed family and personal history along with the appearance of the skin itself. Where family members have asthma, hayfever, other hypersensitivities, such as food allergies, or eczema there is likely to be considerable cause for suspicion of the diagnosis in the patient under examination. In some cases a patient may undergo a skin biopsy if the physician suspects a skin condition or disease other than eczema.

Atopic Eczema and Asthma

Where atopic eczema is diagnosed it is often helpful for patients to keep a symptom diary in order to help identify any patterns to flare-ups that may highlight possible eczema triggers. This can then help in removing the triggers where possible, or managing eczema symptoms more carefully. Specific allergy testing with a qualified dermatologist is also beneficial for patients whose eczema is proving difficult to control and where other symptoms of allergic reaction or hypersensitivity are observed.

What to do about eczema

Eczema triggers can be difficult to avoid or manage as these often include common allergens. The most common triggers include pollen, mould, animal hair, and dust mites. Everyday substances such as soaps, laundry detergents, and skin moisturisers can also present problems. Dry, cracked heels, especially in winter, are another possible manifestation of this condition.

Attempts to treat dry, flaky, itchy skin with moisturising creams can sometimes worsen symptoms. Viral infections such as the flu and colds can also exacerbate the condition, as can exposure to heat and cold, environmental irritants, and prolonged bathing. Other exacerbating factors include skin dehydration, perfumes and cologne, stress, and contact with rough materials or chafing fabrics. Many food allergens also contribute to eczema and may cause internal damage as well as external symptoms.

Continue Reading –> Eczema Treatment

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