Eczema is a common skin condition that can cause mild to
extreme irritation. When eczema is mild, it often causes dry,
hot and itching skin. In more severe forms, eczema causes raw,
broken and cracked skin.
Scratching the irritated skin or
ignoring treatment can result in oozing or weeping patches,
which are prone to infection. The condition is not contagious
and may flare up and recede due to a variety of internal and
external conditions. Eczema is also called dermatitis and may
be a chronic condition.
its various forms is extremely common; in the U.S.
approximately 20 percent of babies and young children may have
symptoms. For a majority of those who suffer from eczema as
children, some symptoms will continue when they are adults; it
is believed that more than 15 million people in the U.S. have
eczema. It is also possible for eczema to have a first onset
Types of eczema and their causes
There are different types of eczema and they are believed to
have different causes. Atopic eczema, also known as atopic
dermatitis, is one of the most prevalent forms of eczema.
Atopic eczema is a genetic condition related to other allergic
conditions; those with asthma and hay fever may have a higher
propensity for atopic eczema. Contact eczema is generally
caused by a physical contact with an allergen or irritant.
Other types of eczema include nummular eczema which causes
crusty or scaly itchy coin-sized spots of irritated skin,
seborrheic eczema which is marked by yellowish and oily skin
areas on the scalp and face or stasis dermatitis which is an
irritation on the skin of the legs and is commonly associated
with circulatory problems.
Those with atopic dermatitis tend to be more susceptible to
contact eczema; once the skin is irritated, it is more prone
to additional damage.
Treatment of eczema
Eczema cannot be cured; however it can generally be
controlled. It is often useful, in the cases of atopic eczema
and contact dermatitis, to determine what allergens are
irritating the skin. While it can be difficult to isolate
specific allergens, it can be helpful since the first course
of treatment is to avoid the offending substances. In
addition, the sufferer should avoid exposure to abrasives
including dust and sand, perfumes and cosmetics, soaps and
detergents, wool and synthetic fibers and cigarette smoke as
these can all exacerbate the condition.
A doctor can prescribe medicine for treating eczema. In
treatment the goal is to heal the skin and to prevent
flare-ups from recurring. Over-the-counter creams and
ointments such as corticosteroid cream can be used to treat
mild eczema symptoms, but in some cases these medications can
further irritate the sensitive skin. Over the counter and
prescription antihistamines are also used to treat the
itching. Extreme or long term cases should always be seen by a
doctor. Newer medicines called immuno-modulators help control
skin inflammation by reducing immune system reactions. If
there is any sign of skin infection, it will be treated with
antibiotics, which may be taken orally or may be topical.
Eczema can vary widely, so each person's treatment regimen
must be custom-tailored to adapt to his or her personal
condition and lifestyle.