Eczema is red and itchy skin that flares up periodically.
Patches of dry skin may develop on certain parts of the body, as well as scaly skin, and raw skin from scratching.
In more severe cases, home treatments may not work and a skin infection is possible.
While particularly common in children, eczema can occur in adults too. Seven types of eczema exist.
- Atopic dermatitis.
- Contact dermatitis.
- Dyshidrotic eczema.
- Hand eczema.
- Nummular eczema.
- Stasis dermatitis.
Eczema can interfere with sleep and daily activities. While some symptoms and causes for each type of eczema overlap, plenty differ too.
Symptoms of Eczema
Symptoms can differ over the seven types of eczema. While all tend to cause redness, swelling, rashes and sometimes fluid-filled blisters, some are more severe than others.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema and is what most people associate with eczema. It has all the common symptoms of eczema and tends to form in creases in the skin first. Skin affected may thicken or change color.
Stasis dermatitis is caused by fluid leaking from weakened veins into skin tissue, and can cause open sores and varicose veins.
Neurodermatitis involves patches of hardened or scaly skin. It is essentially an advanced form of atopic dermatitis.
Hand eczema is generally limited to the hands and is often a result of prolonged contact with chemicals.
Dyshidrotic eczema causes blisters on the hands and feet. It is more common in women than men.
Contact dermatitis is limited to the location in contact with the irritating surface.
Nummular eczema often causes round, coin-like rashes and swellings, and itches more than other types.
Asthma and hay fever may occur alongside eczema, as well as fever or infections. If a fever presents or a rash looks infected, see your doctor immediately.
What causes Eczema?
Infants and children who have eczema are more likely to develop allergies as adults and to have allergies to foods. Eczema is not directly linked with food allergies though. Eczema does have some genetic factors, and those with a family history are likely to develop some form.
Eczema is primarily a result of skin damage – such as that from everyday damage, chemical exposure, allergens or other irritants – that causes moisture loss, which increases skin tenderness and vulnerability. Infants and children with softer skin are more prone to skin damage.
Dry skin can trigger eczema, as can heat stress and chemical irritants such as those found in perfumes, soaps, fabrics, and swimming pools.
Scratching can trigger eczema and make outbreaks worse.
Pollen allergies can also affect eczema, as can skin contact with some irregular surfaces, such as grass or carpet.
Sand and sandpits can trigger eczema, both because of the irritation produced by sand and the presence of other materials and chemicals.
Insect bites can cause eczema, in particular nummular eczema.
Hand eczema and contact eczema are often a result of either prolonged exposure to chemicals or allergies, and are localised to the area of contact.
How do you treat Eczema?
The main treatments for eczema are steroid creams, oral medications, and light therapy. Your doctor or pharmacist may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids.
Other measures and home remedies can also be taken to reduce or avoid an eczema outbreak.
Don’t let your skin dry out. This can be as simple as taking short showers with warm water rather than hot water. Use mild soap that is gentle on your skin. Apply moisturizer after every shower you take or when your skin is feeling particularly dry. Use a humidifier to limit the dry air on your skin.
In the case of contact and hand eczema, try avoiding the chemical or substance that is triggering an outbreak. It may take some time to lessen the severity of the eczema and re-exposure may cause an immediate relapse.
Sunlight exposure can help promote the creation of Vitamin D, which is good for skin health and can help with eczema. However, sun damage can worsen eczema symptoms, so take it in moderation.
Seawater has been known to help some people with eczema, as does avoiding hard water. If your area uses hard water, look into a water softener or filter.
Q: Who can eczema affect?
A: Like many skin issues, eczema is most common in children, but it can affect people of all ages.
Q: Is eczema contagious?
A: Eczema is not contagious, but it can be passed on genetically.
Q: What is the primary cause of eczema?
A: Dryness of the skin is one of the main causes of eczema. Dry skin can be caused by irritants or allergens, so limiting these can help prevent or lessen eczema.
Q: Is eczema linked with food allergies?
A: No, not directly.
Q: How can I avoid eczema?
A: Good skin health can prevent eczema or lessen its symptoms. Moisturizing, avoiding overly hot showers, and avoiding chemical irritants are all good ways to lessen the chance of developing eczema.