What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition commonly known as dermatitis which can result in dry flaky skin which can be itchy and feel hot. This sensation often leads to vigorous itching which in turn can damage the skin.
The word Eczema comes from the Greek words that mean “to boil over”. The word Dermatitis comes from the Greek word for skin. Both words refer to the same condition though.
There are four types of eczema, (atopic, varicose, discoid and contact/dermatitis).
Atopic Eczema is the most common form of Eczema. It is linked to hay fever and asthma. There is a tendency for it to be inherited, but there are also environmental factors which are important as well.
Atopic means extra sensitivity to certain substances (allergens) e.g. dust mites, cat and dog fur etc.
It affects 15-20% of young children in the UK, however, in about 70% of these cases, it clears up. If it doesn’t clear up, then it is likely that the condition will get worse as the patient gets older.
For some reason, the number of cases of Atopic eczema have increased in recent times.
Varicose Eczema affects the lower legs of patients. It is associated with varicose veins and is often a pre-cursor to varicose vein problems. It is also associated with poor circulation. Unlike Atopic eczema, it tends to affect the middle aged and the elderly.
Contact/Dermatitis Eczema can be either an acute or chronic skin reaction where there is a sensitivity to a particular material. This reaction may be an allergic or non-allergic reaction. This condition is caused when the bodies immune system reacts with a particular substance.
Discoid Eczema can occur at any point in a persons life, however, it tends to appear at a later stage in life. It tends to affect the lower legs and feet and shows itself as a distinct round patch of eczema.
What are the symptoms of Eczema?
This type of Eczemas symptoms normally include red, dry, itchy skin. There may also be some small water blisters which can weep on the hands and feet. Scaly areas will develop as well where the skin has been continually scratched.
The symptoms for Varicose Eczema start with a mild itchiness just above the ankle. This will then become speckled and inflamed as well as becoming itchy. On occasion, ulcers can form.
This type of Eczema usually starts out with a rash in the area where the trigger substance has come into contact with the skin. Once the eczema has been triggered, then the eczema can spread through the body.
Normally, one or a number of round patches of red skin appear. They may be itchy and become blistered. It is also quite common for these patches to be infected with bacteria.
What is the treatment for Eczema?
As with all conditions and diseases, it is usually best to talk to your doctor before embarking upon any course of treatment. The information below is purely for information purposes only and I always recommend that you read the information below and then go and talk to a medical professional.
There doesn’t appear to be a cure for eczema, however, there are a number of treatments which can control the symptoms of this very uncomfortable condition.
There are a number of over the counter creams which will help to soothe your eczema of which there are two types. These are emollients which are moisturisers which will soothe and hydrate the skin. A good time to apply these creams is straight after a bath while your skin is still slightly moist. There are also mild steroid creams. These creams can calm flare ups of eczema by suppressing your bodys inflammatory response. Even though these creams are available to anybody, it is wise to ask the pharmacists advice before using either emollients or mild steroid creams.
Your doctor may prescribe some prescription medicine if the emollients and mild steroid creams don’t work.
Your doctor may advise you to take anti-histamine drugs which will help you to sleep although they won’t directly relieve your eczema.
If your eczema is severe enough, it is possible you could have to go to hospital where the staff there will be able to keep you away from any trigger allergens and also to ensure that you take the medicine prescribed for you.