Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, itchy skin. It is common in children but can occur at any stage. A person suffering from eczema may experience periodic flare ups, the period between flare ups lasting anywhere between a few months to a few years. Eczema is not contagious. The condition is manageable with treatments and self-care measures but there is no specific cure.
Eczema can be triggered by a family history of allergies or environmental factors such as dust or pollen. Other factors like upper respiratory infections, stress, use of certain soaps and detergents can also onset the condition.
Genetics also play a key role in the development of eczema as few people may have unhealthy skin conditions that make them prone to get easily affected by bacteria, allergens or other irritants. Even contact with rough or coarse materials on skin can trigger the rash.
Eczema is known to cause itchy skin. Rashes may appear on the face, hands, wrists and back of the knees. Skin tends to get dry and develop scales. The affected areas appear red on fair-skinned people, while in dark-skinned people they may appear in a lighter or darker colour as eczema can affect pigmentation of the skin.
There are a few types of eczema
1. Atopic dermatitis – This is the most common type of eczema. This is usually accompanied by two other conditions, asthma and hay fever. The skin is weak in protecting against bacteria and other allergens
2. Contact dermatitis – This occurs when, contact with certain materials causes irritation or rashes. A few examples are soaps, detergents, metals, perfumes, skin care products etc.
3. Dyshidrotic eczema – women are more prone to this. It is caused by allergies, stress or damp hands and feet.
4. Hand eczema – Regular touch of chemicals by hand could lead to this type which affects only hands. People working in jobs like healthcare, dry cleaning or hairdressing are commonly affected.
5. Neurodermatitis – This is typically a progression from other forms of eczema. Thick, scaly patches form which can bleed and get infected on scratching.
6. Nummular eczema – This forms round coin-shaped spots on the skin usually as a reaction to insect bites or allergic reactions
The treatment for eczema can be done at two levels, self-care at home and medications. The self-care involves promoting healthy skin growth by using moisturizers, wearing soft fabrics and staying away from known allergens.
The professional medical care offers few treatment plans such as
1. Topical creams – The topical creams have anti-inflammatory properties which help alleviate the symptoms.
2. Systemic medication – Oral or injected medications prescribed by a dermatologist to be used for a specific duration.
3. Antibiotics – Prescribed when infection is present.
4. Antihistamines – They help reduce allergies.
5. Phototherapy – This helps reduce the scaly thick skin.