Eczema is a condition in which patches of skin become red, cracked, rough, and itchy. It’s more common in kids but can appear at any age. It may be long lasting (chronic) and is usually accompanied by asthma or hay fever. No exact cure has been discovered yet for atopic dermatitis. But several treatments and self-care measures can help get rid of itching and avoid new outbreaks.
Eczema isn’t contagious, but you’re at higher risk if you have asthma or allergies. Specific foods, like nuts and dairy, can aggravate the symptoms of eczema. Environmental triggers such as smoke, pollen, soaps, and fragrances, can also be the cause of eczema. Some people may get too big for the condition, while others will continue to have it throughout adolescence.
What are the different forms of eczema?
Sometimes, eczema is said to be ‘atopic dermatitis’ which is the most common form. As ‘atopic’ indicates an allergy so, people with eczema often experience asthma and allergies along with itchy, red, and cracked skin. Whereas, the word ‘dermatitis’ refers to the inflammation of the skin.
Eczema appears in a few other forms as well. Each form has its own set of triggers and symptoms. Commonly, there are seven types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, and stasis dermatitis.
How common is eczema (atopic dermatitis)?
Different types and stages of eczema affect quarter of children in the U.S. (15 to 20 percent of total people in the United States), 13 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, 13 percent of Native Americans, and 11 percent of the people who are white.
What are the signs and symptoms of eczema?
As discussed above, eczema and its symptoms are different for everyone. Its signs may not look the same in adult as it seems in childhood. Even, different types of eczema may develop in different areas of the body at different times.
Itchiness of eczema also varies. For many people, it may range from mild to moderate. But in other cases, it can become much worse to develop extremely inflamed skin. Sometimes, the skin starts bleeding when itchiness gets this much bad that people begin scratching it, it can ultimately make eczema the worst. This is known as the “itch-scratch cycle.”
Common symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry skin (excessive dry skin, in some cases)
- Inflamed and discolored skin
- Itching, which may be intense, particularly after noon
- Red or brownish-gray patches, commonly on the hands, wrists, neck, feet, ankles, eyelids, upper chest, and in infants, the scalp and face.
- Oozing or crusting
- Small, lifted bumps, which may overflow the fluid and crust over as a result of scratching.
- Red, cracked, thickened, and scaly skin
- Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching
- Formation of rashes in the creases of elbows or knees.
- Skin turning lighter or darker, or may become thicker in areas where the rash appears.
- Severe infection of skin as a result of constant scratching.
A person may get all of these signs of eczema or only just a few. Other might have a few flare-ups or symptoms could go away entirely. Consulting with a medical professional is the best way to find out eczema.
In case of eczema, other conditions may cause the same condition, but is often found alongside it:
Note that diabetes is not added in the above list.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor when;
- Eczema becomes uncomfortable to affect sleep and daily activities.
- Skin gets severe infection — looking for red streaks, pus, and yellow scabs is a sign to consult doctor now.
- Continuity of experience symptoms despite trying several treatments or home remedies.
What is the effect of weather on eczema?
Low humidity (dry air) can result in dryness of your skin. Sweating can also make the itchiness worse which is typically caused by high heat.
What causes eczema?
Normal or healthy skin helps retain moisture and provides protection against bacteria, irritants, and allergens. In case of eczema, there is an ultimate variation in genes that impacts the skin’s power to provide this protection. This causes loss of moisture and allows skin to be infected by irritants, environmental factors, and allergens.
Children are more likely to get eczema. Food allergies are one of the major causes of eczema in children. In case, a parent has this condition or another atopic disease, it will pass on to child. Even if both the parents have an atopic condition, the risk is much greater.
It is believed that eczema develops from a combination of environmental factors, (in females), immune system, genetic factors, and stress.
These may include:
These can include strong detergents, shampoos, soaps, disinfectants, and juices from the fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables.
Allergens are the one of the major causes of eczema. Dust mites, pets, pollens, and mold include environmental factors leading to eczema, called as allergic eczema.
Microbes like bacteria especially Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.
- Hot and cold temperatures
Excessive hot and excessive cold temperature along with high and low humidity can bring out eczema.
Dairy products like eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, and wheat can make the itchiness even worse and can cause eczema flares.
Eczema is also caused by immune system activation. Eczema causes the immune system to overreact to small irritants or allergens. This overreaction can swell your skin and can increase the flare-ups of eczema.
A person with a family history of dermatitis is more likely to develop eczema. Even though, if there’s a history of asthma, hay fever or allergens, chances to get it are much higher. There might be a mutation in your genes that channels a protein to help the body maintain healthy or flawless skin. This happens because without appropriate levels of that protein, skin will never be completely healthy.
Stress or depression can be an indirect cause of eczema. Stress, for a longer period, can make the symptoms worse. There are mental or emotional symptoms of stress and physical signs of stress which are:
- Consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs to relax
- Difficulty relaxing
- A negative opinion of oneself (low confidence, self-esteem, and self-assurance)
- Constant worry
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty with concentration
- Irritability, unusual mood swings, and a short temper
- Aches and pains
- Nausea and dizziness
- Muscle tension
- Sleeping too much
- Sleeping too little
- Not desiring to enjoy sex
Is there a cure for eczema?
There is no certain cure for eczema but there are several treatments to lower eczema. Depending on the age and severity of eczema, these treatments are prescribed. Also, a lot of people with eczema find better skin condition with certain natural and homemade treatments.
For most general forms of eczema, working on flares comes down to these basics can be helpful. Knowing triggers to avoid direct or indirect exposure, implementing a daily bathing and a good moisturizing skincare, and using OTC and prescription medication consistently or as prescribed, can help preventing eczema.
Quite frequently than not, eczema disappears when a child grows older, but some kids will continue to experience eczema even into adulthood.
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