Eczema: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Medicine, Treatment

Hi readers! In this article, we shall be dealing with the various aspects of eczema, right from what it actually means, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis and both medical and home treatment. This article is extremely helpful for those who suffer from eczema as well as for those who just wish to know more about the disease.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a medical condition wherein patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough. It is not a specific heath condition, but rather a reaction pattern that the skin produces in a varied number of diseases. Eczema begins to show as red, raised tiny blisters having a clear fluid atop red, elevated plaques. When these blisters break, the affected skin weeps and oozes. In older eczema and chronic eczema, the blisters are less prominent and the skin is thickened, elevated, and scaling. Eczema is generally very itchy.

Types of Eczema

At least eleven distinct types of skin diseases may lead to eczema. These are-

  1. Atopic dermatitis: This is a genetically caused skin disease and produces the most common type of eczema. This condition is distinguishable from the rest by the characteristic rashes it produces on the cheeks, neck, elbow and knee creases and ankles. It does not have an allergic basis, but it tends to develop early in life of those with a predisposition to inhalant allergies.
  2. Irritant dermatitis: This skin condition occurs when the skin is exposed to excessive washing or toxic substances repeatedly on a regular basis.
  3. Allergic contact dermatitis: After repeated exposures to the same kind of allergen, our body’s immune system becomes activated at the site of the next exposure and produces a dermatitis. Poison Ivy allergy is an example of the same.
  4. Stasis dermatitis: This condition commonly occurs on the swollen lower legs of those people who have poor circulation in the veins of their legs.
  5. Fungal infections: These may produce a pattern identical to many other types of eczema, but the fungus can be visually identified with a scraping under the microscope or grown in culture.
  6. Scabies: It is caused by an infestation by the human itchmite and generally produce a rash extremely similar to other forms of eczema.
  7. Pompholyx or dyshidrotic eczema: This is a fairly common but much less understood health condition which generally affects the hands and occasionally the feet and leads to the production of an itchy rash composed of tiny blisters on the sides of the fingers or toes and palms or soles.
  8. Lichen simplex chronicus: This condition produces thickened plaques of skin commonly found on the shins and neck.
  9. Nummular eczema: It is a nonspecific term for coin-like shaped plaques of scaling skin, most commonly found on the lower legs of older individuals.
  10. Xerotic or dry skin eczema: In this condition, the skin cracks and oozes if the dryness becomes excessive.
  11. Seborrheic dermatitis: It produces a rash on areas like the scalp, face, ears, and sometimes also on the mid-chest in adults. In infants, in can produce a weepy, oozy rash behind the ears and can extensively spread throughout the body.

A clear identification of the type of eczema is extremely crucial for an effective treatment but it is very difficult to do so. Hence, one should always rely on proper laboratory tests and not assume a type just by visual examination.

Causes of Eczema

Eczema is a genetically caused disease and hence runs in the family. The presence of eczema causing genes make the skin extremely sensitive. However, recent studies have shown that an overly active immune system may also be a cause of eczema. It is also popularly believed that certain defects in the skin contribute to eczema. These defects allow moisture out through the skin and let the germs in, thereby causing eczema.

Things that may trigger eczema include:

  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Contact with irritants like wool, synthetic fabrics, and soap
  • Heat and sweat
  • Cold and dry climates
  • Extra dry skin

Symptoms of Eczema

Each type of eczema has the same kind of rashes but occurring at different parts of the body. However, almost every patient with any form of eczema suffers from itching. Due to the similar appearance of most types of eczema, elevated plaques of red and bumpy skin, the distribution of the eruption can provide clues to distinguish one type with the other. For example, stasis dermatitis occurs generally on the lower leg whereas atopic dermatitis occurs in the front of the elbow and may also occur behind the knee.

However, the symptoms can also differ based on the age of the patients, that is, symptoms of eczema may occur differently in a child and an adult. These differences can be summarized as-

Symptoms of Eczema in infants under two years

In infants under two years, rashes commonly appear on scalp and cheeks and bubble up before leaking fluids. They can cause extreme itchiness which tends to interfere with sleeping. Care should be taken to not continuously rub or scratch these rashes as it may lead to further skin infections.

Symptoms of Eczema in children aged two years until puberty

In children aged above two years until puberty, rashes most commonly appear behind the creases of elbows and knees. They may also appear on other parts of body such as neck, wrists, ankles and the crease between buttock and legs. Over a period of time, these rashes may become bumpy, lighten or darken up in colour and thicken in a process known as lichenification. These litchened rashes can develop into knots and a permanent itch.

Symptoms of Eczema in adults

In adults, rashes commonly appear in the creases of the elbows or knees or the nape of the neck and tend to cover much of the body. The rashes can also be sometimes especially prominent on the neck, face and the area around the eyes. They may lead the skin to become very dry and permanently itchy. Rashes in adults are usually more scaly than those in children.

Diagnosis of Eczema

The clinical diagnosis of eczema includes a total-body examination and documentation of skin changes. Laboratory tests consists of an array of different tests such as Prick testing, Patch testing, Atopy patch test, Exposition tests, mycology, bateriology and histopathology. A deeper look into the patients past medical records and family history can also prove to be instrumental in the diagnosis of eczema. The place of occurrence of the rashes also hold a lot of importance as they are the major clues to detecting the type of eczema.

Treatment of Eczema

Eczema can be treated most effectively using a combination of medicines and home remedies. In case of mild eczema, home remedies usually prove to be enough. However, if one suffers from a severe form of eczema, medications are necessary. These medications should be consumed only at the prescription of a registered medical practitioner, preferably a skin specialist, after proper examination and diagnosis of the condition.

Home Remedies for Eczema

Taking a good care of your skin is the key to cure eczema at home. This includes-

  1. Using a mild soap or a soap substitute that is not drying on the skin.
  2. Using a good moisturizer in cream, lotion, or ointment form, specially right after a shower or bath.
  3. Taking baths with a small amount of bleach added to the water helps in killing the bacteria that lives on the skin of the people suffering from eczema.
  4. Avoiding very hot or very long showers as they tend to dry out the skin.
  5. Stress management and regular exercising can also prove to be a great help.
  6. Getting and using a humidifier to avoid dryness of the skin.

Medicines for Eczema

The most common medicines prescribed by doctors generally include the following-

  1. Hydrocortisone. Over-the-counter cream or ointment versions of it may help mild eczema, but in case of a severe eczema a prescription dose is necessary.
  2. Corticosteroids. When other courses of treatment fail, the doctor might prescribe steriods to deal with eczema. These should be taken with utmost care and diligence.
  3. Ultraviolet Light Therapy proves to be extremely useful in the more severe cases.

So here was all the basic information that you must know about Eczema. It is undoubtebly that disease which is circulating a lot and knowledge about it is must. Hope you found the article informative. Thank you for reading!

Gazal Sancheti

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