Archive for the ‘Eczema’ Category

Eczema: Overview

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

eczema.jpgEczema is an itchy inflammation of the skin associated to a varying degree with other features such as redness of affected areas of skin, generally dry skin, which is often thickened in the areas that have been scratched, lumps or blisters in affected areas and signs of superficial infection such as weeping or crusty deposits. The red, itchy, and flaky skin that appears in eczema is a result of the skin’s inflammatory response to physical or environmental irritants. Anybody can get eczema, although those with a family history will have a greater predisposition of developing the disease. There is currently no cure for this condition, although there are treatments that may help to alleviate the itchy symptoms.

Types of Eczema

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Following are the various types of Eczema…

Atopic eczema : Atopic eczema is closely linked with asthma and hayfever. It can affect both children and adults. One of the most common symptoms of atopic eczema is its itchiness (or pruritis), which can be almost unbearable. Other symptoms include overall dryness of the skin, redness and inflammation. Constant scratching can also cause the skin to split, leaving it prone to infection. In infected eczema the skin may crack and weep. Treatments include emollients to maintain skin hydration and steroids to reduce inflammation.

Allergic contact dermatitis : Develops when the body’s immune system reacts against a substance in contact with the skin. The allergic reaction often develops over a period of time through repeated contact with the substance. For example, an allergic reaction may occur to nickel, which is often found in earrings, belt buckles and jeans buttons. Reactions can also occur after contact with other substances such as perfumes and rubber. In order to prevent repeated reactions it is best to prevent contact with anything that you know causes a rash.

Irritant contact dermatitis : This is a type of eczema caused by frequent contact with everyday substances, such as detergents and chemicals, which are irritating to the skin. It most commonly occurs on the hands of adults and can be prevented by avoiding the irritants and keeping the skin moisturised.

Infantile seborrhoeic eczema : A common condition affecting babies under one year old, the exact cause of which is unknown. Also referred to as cradle cap, it usually starts on the scalp or the nappy area and quickly spreads. Although this type of eczema looks unpleasant, it is not sore or itchy and does not cause the baby to feel uncomfortable or unwell. Normally this type of eczema will clear in just a few months, though the use of moisturising creams and bath oils can help to speed this along.

Adult seborrhoeic eczema : Characteristically affects adults between the ages of 20 and 40. It is usually seen on the scalp as mild dandruff, but can spread to the face, ears and chest. The skin becomes red, inflamed and starts to flake. The condition is believed to be caused by a yeast growth. If the condition becomes infected, treatment with an anti-fungal cream may be necessary.

Varicose eczema : Varicose eczema affects the lower legs of those in their middle to late years, being caused by poor circulation. Commonly the skin around the ankles is affected, becoming speckled, itchy and inflamed. Treatment is with emollients and steroid creams. If left untreated, the skin can break down, resulting in an ulcer.

Discoid eczema : Is usually found in adults and appears suddenly as a few coin shaped areas of red skin, normally on the trunk or lower legs. They become itchy and can weep fluid. Usually discoid eczema is treated with emollients (and steroid creams if necessary).

Symptoms of Eczema

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

eczema-symptoms.jpgSymptoms typically begin during infancy. They include cracks behind the ears and a dry, itchy, scaly rash on the inside of the elbows, backs of the knees, cheeks and sometimes other body areas, or they can be small bumps or blisters. Weeping, oozing and crusting may suggest the presence of secondary infectionThe itch can be so intense that sufferers feel compelled to scratch until the skin bleeds. Infants often find relief by aggressively rubbing their faces against the cot mattress or any other hard surface.

Causes of Eczema

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Many things cause eczema. The commonest is a general allergic over sensitivity (atopy). This sort of eczema is known as atopic eczema, and it is linked with asthma and hayfever. That is, these conditions often run together in a family.

The other possible causes include:

 * Infantile eczema which often affects young babies. This may lead to a patch below their chins, which gets wettest from dribbling, and may be associated with cradle cap.

 * Contact with substances which irritate the skin chemically. This is caused by direct contact between the skin and the substance, which might be such things as detergents, soaps, diesel or engine oils, strong chemicals, cleaners etc.

 * Contact with substances which the body has become allergic to. Commonly this involves nickel, rubbers etc. If a woman was sensitive to nickel in the past it would cause a reaction where the bra hooks and suspenders came near her skin, as these typically contained nickel. Plastics have helped to overcome this risk, but jewellery and watches are still a common cause. Suddenly people need to spend a bit more on their presents to you!

 * Varicose veins can lead to a form of eczema affecting the lower legs. This is known as varicose or gravitational eczema. As well as treatment of the skin, it is important to improve the blood circulation in the legs, and for most people this includes wearing support stockings and staying active on your feet. Your doctor will discuss the options.

How to Prevent Eczema

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Eczema outbreaks can usually be avoided with some simple precautions. The following suggestions may help to reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups:

  • Moisturize frequently
  • Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity
  • Avoid sweating or overheating
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid scratchy materials (e.g., wool or other irritants)
  • Avoid harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents
  • Avoid environmental factors that trigger allergies (e.g., pollens, molds, mites, and animal dander)
  • Be aware of any foods that may cause an outbreak and avoid those foods