What is Eczema?
Eczema is a collective term for several types of chronic skin conditions, also known as dermatitis. It is characterized by red, swollen and dry itchy skin. It most commonly affects the folds of the knees and elbows, around the neck, palms, cheeks and scalp, but may also appear in other parts of the body. Eczema is neither infectious nor contagious, but may lead to secondary infections due to the skin’s hypersensitivity.
The most common type of eczema experienced is atopic dermatitis, affecting both children and adults, but is most prevalent amongst babies and infants. It can be caused due to a variety of factors, ranging from irritating substances, allergies, other infections or one’s genetic predisposition to it.
There are numerous types of eczema, varying in their causes, symptoms, nature and even treatment. These include; atopic dermatitis, discoid eczema, contact dermatitis, varicose dermatitis, seborrhoeic eczema, and dyshidrotic eczema. For every type, the severity of a condition can range from mild – small areas of occasionally itchy skin, to severe – widespread, red, inflamed skin causing constant itching and inflammation.
Eczema cannot be cured, but can be managed by avoiding certain triggers. It undergoes a cycle of a flare up, followed by a period of remission, which can last for weeks or even years. Eczema often develops alongside other conditions such as asthma and hayfever.
Eczema does not always present with unique symptoms, they often closely resemble other skin conditions. However, the most common symptom is a red, dry and itchy rash appearing on the palms, inside the elbows, back of the knees, face and scalp.
These rashes usually start out as dry and extremely itchy skin, which eventually becomes swollen and sore. It gets worse the more it is scratched, and could begin to leak a clear fluid, which then crusts over and begins to scale. For infants, eczema first develops as a scaly rash on the face and chin, with small visible cracks. One usually experiences periods of severe flare-ups, followed by a period of remission where symptoms begin to improve. Other symptoms such as oozing fluid, yellow crusts or yellowish-white spots, along with high temperatures, could be the sign of an infection, which must be addressed.
Each type of eczema presents differently and therefore have varying signs and symptoms.
Atopic Dermatitis:This is the most common form of eczema, it begins early in life and appears as rashes on the cheeks, neck, elbow and knee.
Discoid Eczema:These are rashes which appear in circular or oval patches on the skin.
Contact dermatitis: This form comes about when the body comes in contact with a particular irritant substance.
Varicose eczema: It mostly affects the lower legs, and is caused due to problems in blood flow through the leg veins.
Seborrhoeic eczema: This appears as red, scaly patches that develop on the side of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp.
Dyshidrotic eczema:This form causes tiny blisters to erupt across the palms of the hands.
These symptoms have some common triggers, which set off the flare-ups, they include the use of irritants such as soaps and detergents, stress, fluctuating weather and sometimes even food allergies.
It is estimated that a quarter of us will suffer from an allergy at some point in our lives. If you feel itchiness in your eyes, runny nose, sinus trouble, tummy upset, skin itching etc. often, you are most likely allergic to a substance. We recommend an allergy test for everyone with longstanding unexplained symptoms. By finding out what you are allergic to, if anything, you can learn to avoid irritants and improve your symptoms dramatically.