Eczema or dermatitis , refers to a family of diseases that usually inflame the skin, making it dry and itchy there may also be small blisters . The cause often remains a mystery although an allergy may be to blame . Infection is common because the skin easily becomes very dry scaly and cracked , allowing micro -organisms to enter. Eczema can affect any part of the body , but is most commonly found on the hands , legs and feet .Treatment focuses on soothing the itching and preventing scratching using ointment and perhaps dressing or wearing cotton gloves.
Signs and symptoms of Eczema
Dry, scaly and cracked skin
Red and inflamed skin
Itchiness and irritation
Fluid filled blisters, also known as vesicles , which can burst , causing “weeping”
There are several different types of eczema :
Atopic eczema – This usually starts in in childhood and is related to other diseases such as hayfever and asthma . It tends to improve as the child gets older , and can usually be managed using emollients (hydrating creams), but persistent cases may need short courses of steroids cream .
Irritant induced eczema – This tends to affect the hands , which can become red , sore and cracked .Detergents , soaps , oils , acids alkalis and solvents are common causes. If contact with the irritant cannot be avoided , wearing gloves or applying emollient cream will help .
Allergic contact eczema – With this form , the reaction to an irritant last longer and can be triggered by minimum exposure .Common culprits are dyes , nickel (in gold and zips) , chromium (in leather ) , lanolin (in cosmetics) resins and certain plants ( such as ragweed ). Often , the reaction is restricted to the area in contact with the irritant for example in a band around a finger under a nickel -containing ring .
Patch – testing of the skin may be able to uncover the cause. Avoidance of the irritant is the best solution , although topical steroid creams also work well.
Seborrhoeic eczema – This affects areas of the skin rich in sebaceous glands , such as the face , scalp , joint creases and causes flaky eyebrows . Steroids creams are useful , but should not be used on the face . Coconut oil is helpful for soothing itchy scalps.
To find out what triggering your allergic reaction a dermatologist applies small stripes or discs containing allergy -provoking substances to your skin. Two days later, results are assessed. Red inflamed patches indicate the cause of your eczema.
Treatment options for Eczema
The mainstays of treatment are
Emollient – These help to keep moisture locked into the skin; creams can be used; or special products can be added to the bath.
Corticosteroids (steriod) creams -These are effective in reducing inflammation. However if used in excess or for too long , they can make your skin thin and fragile. They must be used very sparingly on the face and only if prescribed by a doctor.
Steroid ointment – These moisture repelling ointments are useful in treating eczema.
Antibiotic cream – These creams may be helpful where there is evidence of infection, particularly if combined with steroid creams.
Steroid drugs – These are needed very rarely and only in the most severe cases of eczema.