Eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema, is a condition of superficial inflammation involving the epidermis primarily, marked with redness, dryness, itching, crusting and oozing through minute papules and vesicles followed by scaling and pigmentation.
1 Few facts about eczema
- It refers to group of diseases which may be hereditary and prone to development of other allergic conditions like asthma, hay fever, etc.
- 10-20% of people are affected with eczema every year.
- Infants and children are more prone to develop eczema if they have a family history of it.
- People living in dry climate are more likely to develop eczema.
- Stress and other emotional factors do not cause atopic dermatitis but they can worsen the condition.
- There is no single test which can diagnose eczema.
- Eczema may disappear completely for some, while for some, it remains a lifelong condition.
2 What are the causes of eczema? Is it contagious?
The specific cause of eczema remains unknown, though it is attributed to certain factors such as genetics, environment, overactive immune response to irritants, activities that promote skin sensitivity, and problems in the skin barrier. Eczema is not contagious; however, if it is infected, it may be contagious.
3 Environmental factors that cause eczema are
Soaps, strong detergents, shampoos, air purifiers, cosmetics, poor quality metallic jewelry, are some irritants that can cause allergic reactions which may result in eczema.
Pollens are one main cause of eczema. A person suffering from the condition should refrain from gardening or avoid anything related to garden. Animal dander and dust mites also play an active role.
Hot weather, humidity, and sweat, comes under this category.
Stress does not cause eczema but it further worsens the condition.
Cow’s milk, dairy products, products made up of soy, eggs, and nuts also cause atopic dermatitis.
4 Types of eczema
It often affects people with family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever.
An allergic reaction brought about by the skin coming in contact with allergic agents like chemicals or irritant agents is called contact dermatitis.
Irritation of the skin on palms and soles of feet, and is characterized by blisters. Sometimes, deep cracks appear too. This type of eczema may become chronic and painful.
Coin-sized circular patches with dry, irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly, and itchy; appearing on the legs, forearms, lower back, and hips.
A scaly patch of skin on the head, forearms, wrist, genitals, and nape brought about by localized itching which may be caused by an insect bite.
In this condition, the skin falls off in flakes. Oily, scaly, yellowish patches of the skin usually form on the scalp and face due to overgrowth of yeast that normally lives in these areas.
This type of eczema occurs in people when there is pooling of blood in the veins of the lower legs. Irritation in the lower legs is due to circulatory problems.
5 How to diagnose eczema
A dermatologist generally asks about family history of other atopic diseases to check if it is heredity.
Other tests involve:
Different substances are placed onto the skin surface to check if the patient is allergic to a certain substance.
Skin prick testing
A needle containing allergic substance like pollen or food is pricked into the skin of the patient to test for allergies.
Supervised food challenge
Certain food is eliminated and again added to determine whether a food allergy is present.
6 Treatment for Eczema
Topical corticosteroid creams and ointment: Itching and inflammation can be controlled by this anti-inflammatory medication.
Systemic corticosteroids: These are also anti-inflammatory medications prescribed when the condition worsens. These are either injected or taken orally.
Antihistamines: This causes drowsiness and reduces the risk of scratching at night.
Topical calcineurin inhibitors: This medication decreases inflammation and prevents disease flare-up.
Barrier repair moisturizers: This medication reduces water loss and repairs the skin.
This involves wrapping of the affected area with topical corticosteroid and wet bandages. It soothes the affected area and is proven to control the signs and symptoms within hours to days.
The simplest form of light therapy involves exposing your skin to controlled amount of ultraviolet rays A or B and natural sunlight. This is called phototherapy. Though effective, long term treatment is harmful. Phototherapy is not used for infants and children.
Stress busting therapy
Counseling, behavior modification therapy, and personality grooming techniques will help change your behavior when you are frustrated with this skin condition.
8 Natural cures for eczema
Coconut oil: The fats in the oil prevent the skin from drying out. The oil sinks into the skin filling in the intercellular spaces caused by loss of moisture.
Honey: Honey is an antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and humectants (draws water) in nature. Thus, honey is the best way to relieve symptoms of eczema. All you have to do is to apply honey all over the affected area and let it heal.
Stay out of hot water: A long hot tub bath would be very relaxing and soothing. But avoid it because hot water triggers eczema, irritates the skin and may lead to flare ups. Short baths are recommended for eczema patients and warm water baths can also be taken.