Eczema is a skin disorder in which patches of skin become swollen, itchy, red, cracked and rough. Rashes are commonly seen on face, back of the knees, wrist, hands or feet. This condition starts in infancy and continues through the childhood; for some it can even lead to adulthood.
Eczema is an overactive response by the body’s immune system to a foreign material. The actual reason behind eczema is unknown, but studies show that it is due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Hence if one or both the parents suffer from eczema, it is likely for the child to suffer from the same disorder. The environmental factors that cause eczema includes
- Irritants such as soaps, detergents, shampoos and so on
- Allergens such as mites, pollens and so on
- Microbes such as fungi, viruses
- Hot and cold temperatures
- Food products such as dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds
Eczema or atopic dermatitis commonly displays dry and scaly patches on the skin which are often itchy. The symptoms of the disorder vary with the age of the person suffering with the condition. In infants the rashes commonly appear on scalp and cheeks and the rashes usually bubble up with fluid in it. Over time and age, rashes can become bumpier, can become light or dark in colour and might develop knots within. In adults, rashes appear in creases of elbows, knees or neck and the rashes slowly spread to the entire body. Rashes can be prominently seen on neck, face and around the eyes.
Types of Eczema:
- Allergic contact eczema – A condition in which the skin reacts to any substance which the body considers as foreign material
- Dyshidrotic eczema – Irritation of skin on palms of hands and soles of feet along with blister formation
- Neurodermatitis – Scaly and red patches of skin on head, forearms, wrists and lower legs caused by itching due to insect bite
- Nummular eczema – Circular patches of irritated skin that has become itchy and patchy
- Seborrheic eczema – Oily, scaly and yellowing skin usually on the face and scalp
- Stasis dermatitis – Skin irritation on lower legs usually related to circulatory problems
Patients suffering from eczema usually show a combination of symptoms; hence, the doctor needs to examine the patient several times before concluding that the patient is suffering from eczema. There is no single method of testing the patient:
- Patch testing – To test skin allergies, substances are placed directly on the skin
- Skin prick testing – To test skin allergies, a needle containing allergic substances is inserted into the skin
- Supervised food challenges – Food products are selectively incorporated into the diet to determine a food allergen.
There is no permanent cure for eczema. For many of the patients it remains a lifelong condition. However following are some simple tricks that can help the patient attain instant relief.
- Taking bath with warm water regularly
- Moisturizing skin everyday
- Using mild soap when taking bath
- After bath, pat or air dry the skin rather than rubbing it
- Using humidifier in cold weather
Medications are also prescribed based on the condition of the patient. Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments can be used to control the itching and redness. Antibiotics are also used to curb bacterial, fungal and viral skin infections.
No matter what, the situation can only be controlled. The condition cannot be cured completely. So even if the area of the skin has healed, it is important to keep taking good care as it may start getting irritating and itchy again.