Eczema is an inflammatory condition affecting the epidermis. It is initially marked by redness, crusting, itching, scaling, minute papules and vesicles and even pigmentation. Therefore the best description of eczema is a rash-like skin condition or atopic dermatitis. Despite common opinion, eczema is pretty common, affecting up to 30% of the American population. Moreover, it is more prevalent in people living in dry areas and cities. Also contrary to popular belief, eczema is present in both males and females.
Atopic dermatitis refers to a chronic condition which affects infants and children.
Types of Eczema
There are various variations of Atopic dermatitis. These include:
1. Stasis dermatitis. This is appears as skin irritation on lower legs and is normally related to circulatory problems.
2. Contact eczema. This is a localized reaction where your skin has come into contact with an allergen.
3. Allergic contact eczema (dermatitis). This is a reaction where the skin has come into contact with substances which your immune system recognizes as foreign.
4. Dyshidriotic eczema. This refers to irritation of skin on the palms and soles which are characterized by blisters.
5. Nummular eczema. These are circular patches of irritated skin that can be scaling, crusted and itchy
6. Neurodermatitis. These are scaly patches of skin on the forearms, head, wrists and lower legs which is caused by a localized itch for example an insect bite.
7. Seborrheic eczema. These are oily, scaly yellow patches of skin which are usually found on the scalp and face.
Causes of Eczema
The exact cause of eczema remains unknown to scientists. However, it is believed to result from a number of causes, a combination environmental and hereditary factors. Environmental factors include:
• Allergens like pets, pollen, dust mites, mold, and dandruff.
• Irritants such as soaps, shampoos, detergents, disinfectants, meats, vegetables, and juices from fresh fruits.
• Microbes for example fungi, viruses and bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus.
• Hot and cold temperatures.
• Stress. This is not a cause but it makes symptoms worse.
• Foods. These are such as eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds, wheat and soy products.
• Hormones. Particularly for women, the change in hormone levels like during their menstrual cycle and pregnancy worsens eczema symptoms.
Treatment for Eczema
Eczema has no specific cure. All treatment done is usually to heal the affected areas and prevent worsening of the symptoms. Treatment normally depends on age, health status and symptoms. There are a number of home remedies for eczema which help improve the skin and control the symptoms. These include regular warm baths, moisturizing, air dying or gently parting the skin after showering, using a humidifier in dry weather, wearing cotton and other soft fabrics and also using mild soap or non-soap cleansers.
There are also a number of prescribed medication like antibiotics, phototherapy, corticosteroid creams, and antihistamines among many others.