Eczema: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment And Outlook

Eczema: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment And Outlook

What is eczema?

Eczema is not necessarily a rare skin condition, it is common and characterized by itchy and inflamed patches in the body. It is medically termed as atopic dermatitis. It is mostly seen in children and sometimes even on the face of infants. It is also seen on the elbows, necks, faces, back, and behind the knees of both children and adults.
Eczema rarely appears during puberty or adulthood. It is experienced by both male and female.


What are the types of eczema?


Eczema which is same as atopic dermatitis is the most common and chronic type of eczema.

others are:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis causes itchy, red, scaly rashes, particularly on the scalp, on the eyebrows, on the eyelids, on the sides of the nose, and behind the ears.
  • Contact dermatitis is prompted by contact with irritants. Burning, itching, and redness. The inflammation goes away when the irritant is removed.
  • Nummular dermatitis causes dry, round patches of skin in the winter months. It usually affects the legs. It is more common in men.
  • Dyshidrotic dermatitis affects fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It causes itchy, scaly patches of skin that flake or become red, cracked, and painful. The condition is more common in women.



What are the symptoms of eczema?

Eczema is known for it’s dry, itchy, flaky, irritated and inflamed skin. It is non-contagious and becomes less serious with age. It can occur just about anywhere in the body but mostly affects the elbows, back of knees, arms, neck, back, cheeks and scalp.


Red or brownish-gray patches are common symptoms. Small, raised bumps that exude fluid when scratched are another symptom. Scratching causes them to become crusty, which can trigger an infection. Thickened, scaly skin is another symptom.

Eczema can cause extreme itching. Scratching greatly irritates and inflames the skin. This can lead to infections that must be treated with antibiotics.


What causes eczema?


The cause of eczema is currently unknown. Though it is assumed to be triggered by an overactive immune system that reacts aggressively to the presence of irritants.


Eczema is seldom caused by an abnormal response to proteins that are part of the body. Ordinarily, the immune system disregards proteins that are part of the human body and tackles only the proteins of intruders, like bacteria or viruses. In eczema, the immune system suffers the inability to differentiate between the two, which leads to inflammation.

Eczema is said to have a flare-up when one or more eczema symptoms appear on the skin. Typical triggers of eczema flare-ups are:

  • upper respiratory infections
  • food allergies
  • a sudden drop in humidity
  • chemicals found in cleaners and detergents that dry out the skin
  • sweating
  • synthetic fabrics
  • rough scratchy material like wool
  • raised body temperature
  • temperature changes
  • stress
  • animal dander


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What are the risk factors for eczema?


Many factors can heighten the chances of developing eczema.

Eczema is more common in children who suffer from asthma or hay fever, or adults who develop these conditions later, usually before the age of 30

People with family members who have eczema are also at higher risk of developing the condition.


How is eczema diagnosed?

In order to diagnose eczema, a doctor will require a full physical exam and ask you questions regarding your symptoms.

There’s no precise test that can be used to diagnose eczema. But a patch test can detect certain allergens that trigger symptoms, like skin allergies linked with contact dermatitis (a type of eczema).

When conducting a patch test, an allergen is applied to a patch that is placed on the skin. If you are allergic to that allergen, your skin will become irritated and inflamed.


How can eczema be treated?

A dermatologist, allergist, or primary care physician can help you with the correct treatment for eczema. Some options include:


Oral over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines may relieve itching. They work by blocking histamine, which triggers allergic reactions. Examples include:

Various antihistamines can cause drowsiness and should be taken at night.

Cortisone (steroid) creams and ointments reduce itching and scaling. But they should not be used long-term because of side effects, which are:

  • thinning of the skin
  • irritation
  • discoloration

Low-potency steroids such as hydrocortisone are accessible over the counter. High-potency steroids may be helpful to those who don’t respond to low-potency steroids. In critical cases, a doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids. These can cause serious side effects like bone loss.

If an infection exists, a doctor may prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic.

Immunosuppressants are prescription medications that hinder the immune system from overreacting. This prevents flare-ups of eczema. Side effects involve an increased risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

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Light therapy, or phototherapy, uses ultraviolet light to help prevent immune system reactions that trigger eczema. It needs a series of treatments and can aid reduce or clear up eczema. It can also inhibit bacterial skin infections.

Lifestyle changes

Stress can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Ways to decrease stress include:

  • doing deep breathing exercises
  • practicing yoga
  • meditating
  • listening to relaxing music
  • prioritizing a good night’s sleep

A cold compress can help relieve itching, as can soaking for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm or lukewarm bath.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments may help calm the symptoms of eczema. Because of potential side effects, always check with your doctor before using an herbal supplement or beginning an exercise routine. Popular home remedies include:


How can I prevent eczema?

Lifestyle changes like stress reduction and improved sleep can reduce the possibility of an eczema flare-up. Dodge irritants like rough fabrics, harsh soaps, and detergents. Cold weather can also dry out the skin and trigger flare-ups.

People with eczema should avoid scratching. To avoid breaking the skin, it is wise to rub rather than scratch the areas that are itchy.

Due to dry skin’s ability to trigger an eczema flare-up, a dermatologist can recommend an ointment- or cream-based moisturizer that will help soothe your skin.


What is the outlook for eczema?


There is no treatment for eczema. In some cases, eczema can cause additional health complications.

Skin infections such as impetigo are brought on by incessant itching. When scratching breaks the skin, bacteria and viruses can penetrate. Symptoms are:

  • redness
  • pus-filled bumps
  • cold sores
  • fever blisters

If these symptoms appear, visit your doctor.

Neurodermatitis is also caused by constant itching. It leaves skin thickened, red, raw, and darker in color. This is not a dangerous condition but may lead to permanent discoloration and thickening of skin even when eczema is no longer active. Scratching can also lead to scarring.

Many people with eczema report feeling embarrassed and self-conscious concerning their skin. Getting proper treatment and getting stress under control can help alleviate symptoms. Support groups can also help people cope.

Strenuous exercise can be hard for people with eczema because sweating can lead to a bout of itching. Dress in layers so you can cool down while exercising. You may be wise to avoid intense physical exercise during an eczema flare-up.


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