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Eczema - Itching to Know More

What is eczema?
Eczema is a condition where the upper layer of the skin is inflamed. The most common type of eczema is called "atopic dermatitis" or AD - "Atopic" refers to the tendency for allergic conditions to develop and "dermatitis" refers to the swelling of the skin.

How common is this condition?
This is the most common form of skin disorder. It is more common in children but may occur at any age. It was found out that this affects 15-20% of children and only 1-2% of the adult population. Those most likely to get the disease are those who live in cities and where climates are dry. Eczema is NOT contagious. You can not "pass" this to others, and you can not "catch" this from others as well.

What makes eczema itchy?
Eczema is a form of dermatitis where the skin fails to hold in or lock in moisture and becomes dry. When the skin is dry, this means that it has failed to retain water, not lacking oil or grease. Sometimes, eczema occurs as a brief reaction to irritants with symptoms that persists for just a few days or even hours. The appearance of skin discolorations may temporarily show and this is brought about by lesions that have healed. Scarring is rare.

Signs and Symptoms
When the skin lacks moisture, it appears and feels:

  • dry
  • extremely itchy
  • crusty
  • flaky
  • red
  • has rashes or itchy patches

In extreme cases:

  • It has blisters
  • Oozing sores
  • Bleeding

Symptoms may persist for a longer time and known as "chronic dermatitis". Eczema is triggered by allergies but it is not itself an allergy. It is a common problem and this is one of the most popular reasons why dermatologists are visited.


What causes this condition?
Even doctors don't exactly know what causes eczema. It has been considered that eczema is due to the reaction of a person's immune system to his environment which often comes from a reaction to something that has been touched, eaten or breathed in. Changes in temperature and psychological stress such as anger and frustration play a role in worsening this condition. However, emotions do not cause it.

Researchers think that eczema could be inherited. Those inflicted were found out to have members in their family with asthma, hay fever or other forms of allergy.

Food allergies may trigger eczema. Food allergens should be identified which may lead to avoidance of this diet to minimize symptoms of the condition.

Food allergies vary from person to person. The following food products are known to cause allergic reactions or trigger eczema:

  • soybean products
  • coffee
  • nuts
  • wheat
  • maize
  • fish
  • milk
  • eggs

There are irritants and allergens that can make the condition worse. This includes the following:

  • some make-up
  • or perfumes
  • soaps
  • cleaners
  • man-made fibers
  • wool
  • solvents
  • mineral oils
  • substances like chlorine
  • sand
  • dust
  • cigarette smoke

Other factors that lead to eczema includes

  • a dry climate
  • low humidity (especially in winter)
  • long showers
  • hot baths
  • not using moisturizers after a bath or shower
  • bacterial infections

Are there different types of eczemas?
There are different types of eczemas:"Hand eczema "is described where it is located- on the hands. "Eczema craquele" or "discoid eczema" appears as a disc or by its appearance. "Varicose eczema" is due to its possible cause - the varicose.

Where are lesions of eczema mostly located or seen?

Eczema afflicts any part of the body. In children and adults, it is commonly found around the areas of the:

  • hands
  • face
  • neck
  • the insides of the knees
  • the insides of the elbows

In infants, this occurs on the

  • forehead
  • scalp
  • cheeks
  • neck
  • forearms
  • legs

DIAGNOSING ECZEMA
Skin diseases of other sorts have a similar appearance to eczema which is why diagnosis of this condition is not always simple. Some of the methods to evaluate eczema used by medical professionals is a scoring system called the SCORAD. This is used for atopic dermatitis. Another test to evaluate eczema is the "skin patch test".

A thorough physical examination is used to diagnose eczema, as well as asking the patient's history of this condition. It is best for the doctor, patient and family members to work together for treatment to be at its best.

It is very helpful if you can provide a list on how your disease gets activated as it will help the doctor correlate this with a skin (prick or intradermal) or blood (RAST) test. The doctor will conduct tests for bacterial infection if your eczema appears to be crusted, oozing or weeping, or if small bumps are present.

TREATING THE DISEASE
Treatment is based on the following factors:

  • age
  • health status
  • and severity of the condition.

Treatment for eczema is aimed to prevent inflammation, itching, and preventing the condition to worsen. This may include usage of over the counter medications, particularly the application of ointments or creams, and changes in one's lifestyle.

Most patients with eczema were found out to have Staphylococci bacteria present on their skin, causing irritation even when there is no overt infection. Antibiotics are prescribed by the doctor to decrease the irritation caused by the bacteria on the skin. For acute cases, antibiotic treatment is usually for 14 to 28 days. Chronic maintenance antibiotics are used if infections are developed repeatedly.


PREVENTION AND CONTROL
It is easier to control eczema than to cure it. There are home remedies for these. The most effective way to prevent this is to remove whatever is causing the allergic reaction.

Dry skin is prevented by taking short and warm showers rather than long baths. You can use soap or body cleansers that are mild but the body should be thoroughly dried.

Apply a moisturizing lotion all over the body after a bath. Lotions with fragrances and irritating substances should be avoided as well. Avoid clothes that are tight-fitting and rough. More importantly, avoid scratching rashes to worsen any existing conditions.

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