Published on Mar 11, 2019 and last reviewed on Sep 15, 2022 - 5 min read
Eczema is a common skin disorder that makes the skin dry, red, and itchy. The below article details the same.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes the skin to become dry, red, itchy, and bumpy. It is one of many forms of dermatitis and is more common in children, but it can occur at any age. Eczema damages the skin barrier function, making the skin more sensitive and vulnerable to infection and dryness. However, eczema does not harm the body. Also, it does not mean that the skin is dirty or infected and is not contagious. Treatments can help manage the eczema symptoms. Unfortunately, to date, no cure has been found for eczema. But treatments and self-care measures can reduce itching and prevent new outbreaks.
Eczema can be broadly classified into:
Endogenous Eczema - The most prevalent in the population is atopic eczema, an itchy skin condition presenting since childhood along with or without a history of sneezing, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.
Exogenous Eczema - Among exogenous eczema, contact dermatitis is the most common type, whether it is allergic or irritant contact dermatitis.
Acute Eczema - Individuals with acute eczema can present with fluid-filled vesicles, blisters, erythematous papules, and itching. One significant history is the discharge of water and blood when the patient scratches the lesions.
Subacute Eczema - In subacute forms, scaling starts to become more prominent.
Chronic Eczema - In chronic cases, the thickness of the skin increases, causing the skin to become rough and dry.
The following factors cause eczema (atopic dermatitis):
Immune System: The immune system overreacts to irritants or allergens if someone has eczema, resulting in skin inflammation.
Genetics: People are more likely to have eczema if they have a history of dermatitis. In addition, a person is at a higher risk if there is a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergens like pollen, pet hair, or food products. Sometimes, there may be a change in the genes that control a protein that helps the body maintain healthy skin. Without normal protein levels, the skin cannot be completely healthy.
Environment: Exposure to air pollutants, tobacco smoke, harsh soaps, fabrics such as wool, and certain skin products can irritate the skin. Low humidity can also lead to dry, red, and itchy skin. Heat and high humidity can cause profuse sweating, making the itching worse.
Stress: Emotional (depression, difficulty relaxing, anxiety, or use of illegal drugs to relax) and physical (nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, or insomnia) stress levels can cause or worsen eczema.
Eczema can happen at any age, but it usually begins in childhood. The primary risk factors for eczema include:
Family history of eczema, hay fever, or asthma.
Eczema symptoms may vary from person to person and include:
Itching, which may be intense, especially at night.
Red to brownish-gray patches, especially on the hands, feet, ankles, and wrists.
Hardened, cracked, and scaly skin.
Tiny, raised bumps.
Scaly, leathery patches of skin.
No laboratory test is necessary to diagnose eczema. Instead, the healthcare provider probably makes a diagnosis simply by examining the skin and reviewing the medical history. However, when there is doubt, the provider may perform the following tests:
Blood tests to look for causes of the rash that may be unrelated to dermatitis.
A skin biopsy to differentiate one form of dermatitis from another.
Treatment of eczema can be difficult if the cause is something that cannot be controlled, such as genetics. First, try to figure out what triggers or worsens eczema, and then avoid it. The treatment aims to reduce itching and discomfort and prevent infection and additional flare-ups. However, no treatment can eliminate the symptoms of eczema 100 % of the time.
Consider the following treatment tips:
Use a humidifier if dry air makes the skin dry.
Seek help from a psychiatrist or a therapist for counseling for symptoms of poor emotional health.
Moisturize the skin at least twice daily with suitable products, including bath oils, creams, ointments, or sprays.
Use lukewarm water for a shower or bath instead of using hot water.
Use gentle soaps and other skincare products free of fragrances and alcohol.
Take over-the-counter antihistamines for intense itching.
Apply over-the-counter cortisone creams and ointments to relieve the itching and redness.
The healthcare provider may recommend steroid creams, pills, or shots. However, some adverse effects of these medications include weight gain, high blood pressure, and thinning of the skin. Some newer drugs, called topical immunomodulators, show progress in treating people unresponsive to other treatments.
A biological drug called Dupilumab is FDA approved for treating moderate to severe eczema. These drugs block specific proteins from binding to receptors on the cells, easing or preventing inflammation by keeping the immune system from overreacting.
Other medication options for eczema include:
Phototherapy: The ultraviolet light (UV) waves in sunlight have been proven to help treat certain skin conditions, including eczema. Phototherapy utilizes ultraviolet light, often ultraviolet B (UVB), from special lamps.
Most children with eczema outgrow the condition or experience significant improvement when they reach puberty. But unfortunately, others may continue to have some form of eczema. The condition can be well-managed for adults with good skin routine and treatment, although flare-up symptoms can happen throughout life.
Eczema is a common skin disorder that is not contagious. However, it can be uncomfortable and affect the quality of life. At its worst, it can keep a person from sleeping and make them feel self-conscious. See a healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms to get the treatment immediately. Prescribed treatments and self-care measures can alleviate itching and prevent new outbreaks.
Treatment involves the following:
- Using a humidifier.
- Moisturizing the skin.
- Using gentle soaps and skincare products.
- Using antihistamines and cortisone creams.
Preventive measures include:
- Avoid scratching the rash or skin.
- Keeping the fingernails short.
- Moisturizing the skin two to three times a day.
- Do not scrub the skin while bathing.
The doctor may prescribe a steroid cream that eases the itching and clears the rash or creams having calcineurin inhibitors that protect the skin and prevents eczema outbreaks. Moisturizers can be used to prevent the skin from becoming dry.
The foods include:
- Cows milk.
- Citrus fruits.
The natural remedies include:
- Apple cider vinegar.
- Aloe vera gel.
- Bleach baths.
- Colloidal oatmeal.
- Coconut oil.
Eczema is not contagious and does not spread by touch. Eczema does not spread from scratching, but scratching the skin can make the symptoms worse. Eczema can spread to other parts of the body due to the nature of the disease.
There is no cure for eczema. There are treatments available for the symptoms, but they will not eliminate the symptoms completely. Eczema can subside but also has a chance of recurring as it is a chronic condition. Treatment helps with itchy and dry skin.
A variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause infected eczema. Some of the common microbes responsible for eczema include Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.
Petroleum jelly or vaseline is well tolerated and shows good results on sensitive skin, which helps in treating eczema flareups. Petroleum jelly does not sting or cause discomfort and has moisturizing and soothing properties.
Viral eczema is called eczema herpeticum, which is caused by direct contact with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Type 1 HSV is the cause of eczema herpeticum. It clinically presents itself after five to 12 days after contact.
Eczema is not life-threatening and but if not controlled, it can have life-threatening complications. It can be detected early and managed it. But there are instances where it can get infected with bacteria and viruses and cause life-threatening complications.
Last reviewed at:
15 Sep 2022 - 5 min read
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