Eczema - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

By: peterhutch

Eczema is a general term for many types of skin inflammation, also known as dermatitis. The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis (some people use these two terms interchangeably). However, there are many different forms of eczema.

Although eczema can sometimes look unpleasant, it is not contagious. With treatment the inflammation of eczema can be reduced. However, the skin will always be sensitive to flare-ups and need extra care.

People with eczema often have a family history of the condition or a family history of other allergic conditions, such as asthma or hay fever. Eczema might look different in different persons, and may occur in different parts of the body to different person. In adults, eczema most often develops on the hands and elbows, and in "bending" areas such as the inside of the elbows and back of the knees. In young children, eczema most often develops on the elbows, knees, face, neck, and scalp.

Symptoms of eczema may include red, itchy skin and sores that ooze and crust over. One out of ten children develops eczema, but more than half of them lose it by the time they reach their teens. It is a chronic inflammation of skin categorized by scaly and itching rashes. Dermatitis is a common condition that isn't life-threatening or contagious. But, it can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. A combination of self-care steps and medications can help you treat dermatitis.

Causes of Eczema

In most cases there is a familial predisposition. Atopy ( allergic rhinitis , asthma and hay fever ) is the term doctors use to describe this predisposition. However, the environment plays a significant role as well (such as heat in the summer and dry winters). There are two types of eczema. Atopic eczema is thought to be a hereditary condition . People with atopic eczema are sensitive to allergens in the environment which are harmless to others. In atopic eczema there is an excessive reaction by the immune system. This type of eczema can worsen after eating certain foods or after being exposed to other allergens such as pollen or dust.

Treatment of Eczema

1. Avoid frequent use of soaps, hot water, and other cleansing procedures (especially if you have a dry skin type) that tend to remove natural oil from the skin.

2. Topical corticosteroids , reduce inflammation in the skin and are usually safe and very effective in curing eczema when used correctly. Mild corticosteroids are generally used for children and on the face and flexures, eg crease of the elbow, behind the knees etc.

3. A very common treatment for treating eczema involves - applying lotions, creams, or ointments to keep the skin as moist as possible.

Healing the skin and keeping it healthy are of primary importance as part of both preventing further damage and enhancing quality of life. Developing and sticking with a daily skin care routine is critical to preventing flares. Key factors are proper bathing and the application of lubricants, such as creams or ointments, within 3 minutes of bathing. People with atopic dermatitis should avoid hot or long (more than 10 to 15 minutes) baths and showers. A lukewarm bath helps to cleanse and moisturize the skin without drying it excessively. Because soaps can be drying to the skin, the doctor may recommend limited use of a mild bar soap or nonsoap cleanser. Bath oils are not usually helpful.

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