Eczema causes the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. The word “eczema” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to boil over”. Eczema is very common and can range from mild, moderate, to severe. In many cases it is manageable. Over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema. For babies most commonly it develops on the face (especially the cheeks and chin). However, it can appear anywhere on the body and symptoms may differ for each child. More often it goes away as a child grows older though some children continue to experience eczema into adulthood. Adults to develop eczema without any history of childhood eczema. Living with eczema can be an ongoing challenge. Eczema symptoms include itchy, red, and dry skin caused by inflammation.
Eczema is a chronic problem for many people and can appear on any part of the body. It occurs in patches of chronically itchy, dry, thickened skin, usually on the hands, neck, face, and legs (but it can occur anywhere). Scratching of dry patches of skin should be avoided as it may get infected. Eczema is usually itchy varying from mild to moderate. For some people, it can become much worse and leading to extremely inflamed skin. Sometimes the itch gets so bad that people scratch it until it bleeds making eczema worse. This is called the “itch-scratch cycle. The general symptoms are dry, sensitive skin, Red, inflamed skin, Very bad itching, Dark colored patches of skin, Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin, Oozing or crusting, Areas of swelling. It also runs in families and certain genes can cause some people to have extra-sensitive skin. An overactive immune system also plays a part. These defects lead to loss of moisture through the skin and germs get an easy entry. Common triggers for eczema are stress, contact with irritating substances such as wool, synthetic fabrics, and soap, heat and sweat, cold, dry climates, dry skin. There are different types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema and often affects people having asthma or hay fever. Contact dermatitis develops after a substance damages the skin. It is of two types irritant and allergic contact dermatitis. Dyshidrotic Dermatitis affects the hands and feet but the cause is unknown. The first symptom may be severe itching followed by blisters, and a few weeks later scaly patches. Deep cracks also appear on the hands or fingers and it may also become chronic and painful. Nummular Dermatitis often affects men in their mid-50s than women in their teen years or early adulthood. It causes coin-shaped red marks most often on the legs, backs of the hands, forearms, lower back, and hips. Seborrheic Dermatitis is better known as dandruff. In infants, it affects the scalp and in adults, it affects eyebrows, sides of the nose, area behind the ears, groin, and center of the chest. Stasis Dermatitis can develop in people when the veins in their lower legs don’t properly return blood to their heart. It can arise quickly, causing weeping and crusting of the skin. Over time, this type of eczema can cause the skin to develop brown stains.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown however researchers say that people develop eczema because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. There is no cure for eczema but there are treatments depending on age and severity. They include over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, prescription topical medications, phototherapy, immunosuppressants, and biologic drugs. People with eczema have also reported success with specific natural and alternative treatments. Eczema flares can also be managed by following few basic things, know the triggers and avoidance, implement a daily bathing and moisturizing routine, using OTC and prescription medication consistently and as prescribed.