No matter which part of the skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy. Sometimes the itching will start before the rash appears, but when it does the rash most commonly occurs on the face, knees, hands, or feet. It may also affect other areas as well.
Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker.
In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that occurs mainly on the face and scalp, but patches may appear anywhere.
Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. Eczema is a general term for any type of dermatitis or “inflammation of the skin”. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most severe and chronic (long-lasting) kind of eczema.
Other skin diseases that are eczemas are:
- atopic dermatitis
- seborrheic dermatitis
- nummular eczema
- irritant contact dermatitis
- dyshidrotic eczema
- allergic contact dermatitis
All types of eczema cause itching and redness, more sever cases will blister and bleed, which may introduce infection if not treated.
What is the cause of eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it’s thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to unknown triggers.
In addition, eczema is commonly found in families with a history of other allergies or asthma.
Some people may suffer “flare-ups” of the itchy rash in response to certain substances or conditions. For some, coming into contact with rough or coarse materials may cause the skin to become itchy. For others, feeling too hot or too cold, exposure to certain household products like soap or detergent, or coming into contact with animal dander may cause an outbreak. Upper respiratory infections or colds may also be triggers. Stress may cause the condition to worsen.
Although there is no cure, most people can effectively manage their disease with medical treatment and by avoiding irritants. The condition is not contagious and can’t be spread from person to person.
The cause of eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD) is not known and has baffled scientists for years. Likely causes are by both genetic and environmental factors. Studies show that if a one parent has AD the child has a one in 4 chance of having AD also, if both parents have it then the child has a one in 2 chance of having AD.
How Is Eczema Diagnosed?
Eczema can be diagnosed by a pediatrician, allergist, immunologist, dermatologist or your primary care provider. Since many people with eczema also suffer from allergies, your doctor may perform allergy tests to determine possible irritants or triggers. Children with eczema are especially likely to be tested for allergies.
Who are most likely to suffer eczema ?
People with this disease often have other atopic conditions, like hay fever and asthma and are susceptible to allergies. It affects anyone from babies to the elderly. Doctors often refer to these three conditions as the “atopic triad.”
Where is it most likely to erupt on the body?
It typically affects the insides of the elbows, backs of the knees, and the face. In sever cases can cover most of the body.
My friend has eczema, can I catch it?
Eczema is not contagious. Eczema is usually detected during infancy and childhood.
What are my symptoms if I have it?
Symptoms are dry, itchy, scaly skin, which begins to crack. Check for rashes behind the ears, on the cheeks, arms and legs. It alternately improves and worsens. During “flare-ups,” open weeping or crusted sores may develop from scratching or from infections. Some babies may have this on their cheeks, which may be a sign of a milk allergy.
What sets it off?
Certain things in individuals can trigger an attack, it may be due to substances or conditions or both.
A typical list of triggers
Dry skin, irritants (Irritants are substances that cause burning, itching or redness such as solvents, industrial chemicals, detergents, fumes, tobacco smoke, paints, bleach, woollens, acidic foods, astringents and other alcohol containing skin care products and some soaps and fragrances), allergens, food allergies – in touching the food whilst preparing, emotional stress, heat and sweating, and infections.
What can I do about it?
Try to avoid or reduce your exposure, wear gloves if you know you have to handle certain things, which may trigger it off. Be aware of what you are sensitive to and carry a list with you. Always read labels to ensure there are none of the irritants are in the ingredients.
What about food allergies?
Food allergies can cause flare-ups. Try to identify which foods you eat or prepare cause the flare-up. Note down if the eczema worsens with certain foods. It is difficult to identify, as it may be a coincidence if it is a one off.
Your doctor may be able to offer a skin scratch test to try to identify the allergy concerned.
What about emotional stress?
As our bodies develop so do our minds, adolescence brings with it hormone changes to the body, stress due to parental situations, stress at school, physiological events can be stressful and being able to control and resist scratching may add to the pressure of keeping eczema under control. All this has shown evidence of triggering eczema.
I heard if I lay in the sun it would improve my eczema.
Most forms of eczema are where the body produces new skin cells too quickly, and so going out in the sun will hopefully dry out and remove the extra skin, which may improve the look of your skin.
Remember the sun produces ultraviolet rays (UV) which can be also very harmful to the skin causing, cancers and premature aging, and only small doses in the shade are recommended.
If you lay in the sun where there is high humidity levels, this will cause sweating and probably worsen the condition.
Your doctor may prescribe Cortisone (steroid) creams, which are applied directly to the affected area, even though these creams can help in the short term, long term can be damaging. Cortisone pills or injections are sometimes used but they are not safe for long-term use. If you are using a Cortisone cream you are strongly advised to stay out of the sun.
What can be done when eczema flares up?
The best line of defence against eczema is prevention, even though this may not always work. Once you suspect your eczema is flaring up prompt treatment is needed. Consult your doctor. Using Canadian Ginseng Skin Care Products such as Ginseng Ointment help to be effective in prevention as well as it cooling down the irritation when it does flare up.
I am susceptible to infections what can I do about it?
People with eczema are prone to skin infections. Your doctor should be consulted immediately. Keep the area as clean as possible. Try to avoid clothes which may snag and irritate the skin further. Learn to recognise when a flare up will occur. Sometimes you may experience a sensation or tingling on the skin just before a flare-up.
I feel like a freak, will I ever live a normal life?
Of course you will! People with eczema do not have to be limited by their disease. It can be controlled by prevention, medication, and careful adherence to a treatment program supervised by a doctor. Usually the more you worry about it the worse the condition seems to flare up. Try meditation to fully relax. Be more positive about yourself.
If anyone knows someone who is suffering with eczema, be supportive, help them through the stressful times.
Parts of information in this leaflet were obtained from National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and the national ezcema assosiation.
This is for information purposes only and is not to be used instead of medical advice.
Information provided should not be used to make a diagnosis. Ginseng Veronica Company recommends you always seek medical advice regarding any skin condition.
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