Eczema is a term used to refer to different types of skin inflammation. The word ‘Eczema’, which is also known as dermatitis, has been derived from a Greek word meaning to ‘boil out’. Eczema is usually genetic i.e. people suffering from Eczema either have other family members affected by it or other kinds of allergic conditions like hay fever or asthma. The condition is not contagious and it is found to be slightly more among girls when compared to boys.
Causes of Eczema:
Eczema is caused due to a defect in the skin, which prevents it from performing the function of a barrier, along with the immune system’s abnormal functioning. Gene defects which cause abnormalities in some proteins like filaggrin, which are necessary to maintain the barrier of normal skin, can lead to eczema.
Eczema can also be caused by things like soaps, detergents, cosmetics, jewelry, clothing etc which come into contact with the skin. Allergens, the substances which causes allergy among the people, like pollen, some food items etc, may also lead to Eczema.
Symptoms of Eczema:
Some of the most common symptoms of Eczema include itching, dry and reddened skin, crusting, flaking, oozing lesions, blisters, bleeding, cracking and even dry and scaly skin. Repeated scratching of the area may lead to swelling.
Types of Eczema:
- Atopic Eczema: Atopic Eczema is the most common type of Eczema found among people. It generally runs in the families in which some of the family members have asthma. Atopic Eczema can be seen on the neck, head, buttocks, scalp, inside of elbows and behind knees.
- Contact Dermatitis: Contact Dermatitis is caused due to indirect allergic reaction to some allergen like nickel and direct reaction to chemicals present in the detergent. This condition can be cured but the person affected with the condition should stay away from the particular allergen.
- Xerotic Eczema: Xerotic Eczema is basically dry skin which aggravates in winters and turns into eczema. Trunk and Limbs are the most affected parts of the body. This condition is more prevalent among older people.
- Seborrhoeic Dermatitis: Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is generally a harmless condition which leads to dry or peeling of eyebrows, scalp, trunk and face. It is also found in newborns in which it is known as cradle cap and is generally curable.
- Dyshidrosis Eczema: This type of Eczema can be identified by cracks and itching on soles, palms and sides of toes and fingers. The condition worsens during night and summer.
- Discoid Eczema: Discoid Eczema, which leads to dry or oozing rash generally in the lower leg, gets worse in winter.
- Venous Eczema: This type of Eczema is characterized by itching, redness, darkening and scaling of the skin and is found in people suffering from varicose veins, impaired circulation and edema. It generally affects the area of the people who are above 50 years of age.
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis: It is characterized by itching and rashes on thighs, arms, back and knees and the condition aggravates at night.
Diagnosis for Eczema:
Family history and physical examination are generally enough to diagnose the condition. However, in other cases where it is not certain whether the person is affected from Eczema, Skin biopsy can help diagnose the type of Eczema. Patch Testing can also be held by dermatologists to identify substances which caused allergy in the person.
Treatment of Eczema:
- Medication: Corticosteroids are often used to suppress or control symptoms of dermatitis. While a weak steroid may be used to treat mild-moderate eczema, a strong steroid may be used to treat severe cases of eczema. However, the use of corticosteroids for a long period may cause side effects, including a thin and fragile skin.
- Skin Barrier Emulsion is a treatment devoid of any steroids and comprises of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol which repairs the damaged skin.
- Immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressants are prescribed when other forms of treatment fail as it can dramatically treat the eczema.
- Anti-itch drugs like Capsaicin and Hydrocortisone are used to reduce the itching caused due to eczema. Fast relief from itching can also be achieved through swimming, applying wet cloth on the affected part, taking a cold water bath, or even by carefully using ice pack.
- Light Therapy: This type of treatment uses ultraviolet light to control eczema. However, the treatment needs to be given carefully because excessive use may lead to skin cancer.
- Massage Therapy: Massage Therapy enables the cracks and lesions in the skin to heal faster as it significantly increases the circulation to tissue. Paraffin could also be used for massage therapy in the affected areas, especially foot or hand. Some dermatologists also recommend stone massage therapy as the stones can be put on the specific areas to increase the circulation. Also, it has no side effects.
Prevention of Eczema:
- Try to avoid things like detergents, soaps, gasoline and household cleansers which irritate your skin and instead use mild soaps.
- While washing clothes or utensils, it is advisable to wear gloves so that your hands do not get in direct contact with harsh detergents and soaps. The person suffering from eczema should wear gloves while going out in cold weather as it may dry the skin and aggravate the skin condition.
- The affected area should not be scratched even if it is itching as it will break the skin, increasing the chances of bacterial infection.
Eczema can be treated in most cases though it is necessary to take some preventive methods so that the condition does not aggravate.