Eczema is a disease condition usually accompanied by mild itching and skin patches. Usually seen in babies and children, eczema causes the skin to be red and dry. Compared to children, very few adults suffer from eczema.
The most common type of eczema is referred to as “Atopic dermatitis” or “Atopic eczema”. The term “Atopic” refers to a group of diseases condition that can also be seen in other disease conditions like hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma. The word “Dermatitis” refers to the Inflammation of the skin. The skin of the infected individual usually appears red and like it is boiling.
However, eczema is not a single health problem but a well-recognized reaction pattern, seen in a number of skin diseases. Eczema is a form of reaction pattern that the skin produces in a number of skin diseases. It forms a red, swollen and raised tiny blisters on the skin. When the blisters break on the affected skin, it is characterized by weeping and oozing. In older eczema condition (chronic eczema), the blisters are seen to be less prominent and the skin is scaling and thickened.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ECZEMA
Eczema symptoms vary depending on the age of the infected person. But eczema symptoms are always accompanied by the skin being scaly, itchy, and presence of patches on the skin. The major symptom of eczema is itchiness, notwithstanding the part of the skin that is affected. The itch is often mild and sometimes it becomes intense and this might end up to becoming extremely inflamed skin. The affected area of the skin tends to be dry, scaly and thickened. The itching is usually noticed before the rash appears. The most common types of eczema appear to be red to brownish-gray patches and can be seen on the neck, feet, hands, ankles, wrists, eyelids, buttocks, upper chest, anterior part of the elbows and posterior part of the knees. It may also affect other areas of the skin.
Other signs and symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry skin
- Intense itching especially at night and may disturb sleep
- Affected eyelids are usually red, puffy and itchy
- Cracked, scaly and thickened skin
- Swollen skin as a result of scratching
- Eczema appears red and then turns brown in fair-skinned people
- Eczema can affect pigmentation in dark-skinned people, making the affected area to be dark or light
- Red bumps or clear fluid-filled bumps may develop
- When scratched it may ooze and become crusty
- Painful cracks in the skin are likely to be seen
- Small, raised bumps is developed and the fluid may leak and crush over when scratched
However, since eczema is often developed in babies and children, there are symptoms shown by the affected infants.
SYMPTOMS SHOWN BY THE AFFECTED CHILDREN CLASSIFIED BY AGE
AGE: UNDER 2 YEARS OLD
- Rashes usually swell up before leaking the fluid
- The rashes are often seen on the cheeks and scalp
- Intense itching of the affected area of the skin and scratching can lead to a skin infection
AGE: 2 YEARS OLD AND TILL PUBERTY
- Rashes usually appear at the anterior part of the elbow and posterior part of the knees
- Rashes appear on the wrists, necks, ankle, legs, buttocks and other parts of the body
TYPES OF ECZEMA
There are different types of eczema. They are:
Atopic dermatitis is also referred to as “Atopic Eczema”. Atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema. Symptoms are often seen in childhood and can range from mild to intense. Affected people are more likely to have hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma.
Atopic eczema tend to cause dry skin, patches, and the skin may become itchy, inflamed and reddish. The patches are often seen in the crease of the knees and elbows as well as on the neck, wrists, and face.
When the patches are scratched, it can worsen the itching and make the skin ooze clear fluid. The patches on the skin can become thickened when scratched repeatedly. This is called “lichen simplex chronicus (LSC)”.
People with atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema often face serious health complications. This may include:
- Hay fever (rhinitis) and asthma. People suffering from Atopic dermatitis often develop asthma and hay fever.
- Allergic contact dermatitis. This condition is often seen in people with atopic eczema. It is a skin reaction that occurs when a substance or allergen that the immune system recognizes as a foreign body comes into contact with the body.
- Chronic itchy and scaly skin. A skin problem often referred to as lichen simplex chronicus or neurodermatitis. This skin condition starts with a patch of itchy skin and you will experience the urge to scratch the affected area which makes it itchier. This condition can result to the discoloration of the skin, which makes it to become more thickened. There is a patch on the affected area of the skin and the affected areas include forearms, head, lower legs, and wrists.
- Irritants hand dermatitis. Hand dermatitis is often seen in people whose work requires regular contact with water and are also exposed to harsh detergents, soaps, and disinfectant.
- Skin infections. When the skin is scratched repeatedly due to the itchy, the skin can become breaks causing exposure on the skin surface. This will increase the risk of the skin being exposed to different viruses and bacteria because the skin is widely open to the environment and it may attract foreign bodies.
- Sleep difficulty. When itching and scratching becomes intense, it will become difficult to have a sound sleep and this will lead to poor sleep quality.
Dyshidrotic eczema often referred to as “Pompholyx eczema” is typically seen in adults with age ranging from 30 to 40 years old. It usually appears on the feet and hands and it is characterized by intense itching and small blisters are also seen. In some affected people, the blisters can become large and watery. When the blister is contaminated, it swells and it is often painful.
Although, the blisters are seen to be gone within a few weeks and the skin may become dry, thickened and cracked. This may cause painful skin crack. However, the major cause of pompholyx eczema or dyshidrotic eczema or factors that influence this disease is unclear. Though, it is seen mostly in people with the following health conditions such as:
- Skin infection caused by fungal
- Hay fever or allergic rhinitis
- Atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema
- Emotional stress and changes in the weather
Also, people who work in a company where chemicals are produced or have their hands deep in water most of the time are at high risk of having dyshidrotic eczema. Pompholyx eczema may be as a result of contact dermatitis because people suffering from dyshidrotic eczema may also experience flare-ups frequently.
Some people develop a skin reaction when their skin or other body parts comes in contact with some certain substances. Also, people suffering from atopic dermatitis are at a high risk of having contact dermatitis.
There are two major types of contact dermatitis. They are
- Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD)
- Irritants Contact Dermatitis (ICD)
ALLERGIC CONTACT DERMATITIS. This occurs when an individual’s immune system reacts to a certain substance and this substance is referred to as an “Allergen”.
However, there may be no reaction when the substance or allergen comes in contact for the first time with the person’s immune system and once a person develops an allergy for a particular substance, it will last for a lifetime.
These allergens may include:
- Certain medications like oral and topical antibiotics
- Rubber and latex
- Some clothing and fabrics dyes
- metals like cobalt, nickel, and zinc
- specific adhesives and glues
- food like peanuts
- Some ingredients used in makeup, creams, nail polishes, hair dyes, and other cosmetics production.
IRRITANTS CONTACT DERMATITIS. This occurs as a result of constant exposure to the substance that is capable of irritating the skin. This substance may include:
- Harsh soaps and detergents
- Insecticides and pesticides
- Alkalis and acids
- Some hair conditioners and shampoos
Also, people that are exposed to the substances or work with it regularly have a higher risk of having irritants contact dermatitis compared to those that are exposed to it only once in a while.
The symptoms shown by people suffering from contact dermatitis may also include:
- Dry, itchy and red skin that may look as if it is burning
- Small and red bumps on the affected skin.
Discoid eczema or discoid dermatitis is referred to as the inflammation of the skin. Discoid eczema is also known as “nummular eczema” due to its round (coin) like shape. The shape of the rashes usually appears to be reddish and coined. The plaque affects different parts of the body and it is usually seen on the lower legs, forearms, hands, and torso. The face and the scalp are usually unaffected.
Nummular eczema is a chronic infection and it is accompanied with intense itching. The affected area is usually dry and it can affect people of any age, including children. People with nummular eczema may also have atopic eczema.
The cause of discoid eczema is unknown, however, it is usually seen in people with sensitive and dry skin, and can be easily irritated by harsh soaps and detergents. Other things that can trigger discoid eczema include:
- Insects bites
- Poor blood flow. This may worsen symptoms on the lower legs
- Low humidity level
- Rough clothing
- Skin infections caused by bacterial
- Atopic eczema
- Some medications
- Metals and formaldehyde
Seborrheic dermatitis, also called seborrheic eczema, dandruff, and seborrheic psoriasis. Seborrheic eczema is a skin condition that causes the affected areas to be red, scaly and itchy. This skin condition mainly affects the scalp. It can also affect different parts of the body. The rash often appears to be swollen and a white or yellowish crust form on the affected surface.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a fungal infection and it is caused by “Malassezia yeast”. It can also be caused by the irregular response of the immune system.
Seborrheic dermatitis can also develop in areas of the body that are oily. These include:
- Side of the nose
- Upper chest and back
- Under the breast
Seborrheic dermatitis affects people of different ages. However, in infants, it is known as ”cradle cap” and causes scaly, crusty patches on the affected baby scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis may disappear without any treatment or the affected individual may need medications before it disappears.
In adults, seborrheic eczema is common in people between the age range of 30 and 60 years of age.
Certain health conditions can increase the risk of seborrheic eczema. They are:
- Human Immune Virus (HIV)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Acne, psoriasis, and rosacea
- Dry season
- Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
- Recovery from stressful heart condition such as stroke or heart attack
- Some medications including lithium, interferon, and psoralen.
- Alcoholic pancreatitis
- Eating disorder
- Neurogenetics and psychiatric disorder
Asteatotic eczema is also referred to as “xerotic eczema and eczema craquele”. Asteatotic eczema is a skin condition that occurs when the skin becomes too dry, itchy and cracked and it is often found in adults. Asteatotic eczema is not common in people in their early 20s but often seen in adults, and people over 60 years of age.
Asteatotic eczema occurs mostly in the dehydrated part of the body and most often during the winter when there is a decrease in humidity which results in increased water loss from the stratum corneum.
Asteatotic eczema occurs on the lower legs and can also appear on different parts of the body. The symptoms include:
- Red or pink fissures or grooves
- Scaling patches
- Dry and cracked skin
- Itching and soreness
The cause of Asteatotic eczema is unknown. However, it can be triggered by certain factors. They are:
- Harsh soap and detergents
- Dry and cold weather
- Excessive scrubbing and cleaning of the skin
- Rough clothing
- Hot baths
Varicose eczema is also known as gravitational, venous or stasis eczema. Varicose eczema is a chronic skin disease that affects the lower legs and it is commonly seen in people with varicose veins.
Varicose or venous eczema happened when blood flow in the lower legs becomes compromised and the valves in the vein become weak thereby causing a leakage of blood into the body tissues. Also, getting older and being less active can weaken the veins in the legs. This can result in varicose eczema and varicose veins.
Since varicose eczema mostly affects the lower legs the symptoms include:
- Dry, itchy and irritating skin
- Hot, itchy blisters
- Scaly skin
- Cracked or fissures skin
- Crusty, weepy patches
- Heavy and aching legs
- Red, swollen and painful skin
- Intense itching of the skin
It is important to avoid the scratching of the affected areas to prevent the skin condition from getting worse.
CAUSES OF ECZEMA
The cause of eczema remains unknown. However, it can be developed due to genetics and environmental factors. Also, eczema can be a result of the overactive response by the body immune systems to irritants and this response can trigger the symptoms of eczema. Eczema is also related to a gene variation that altered the skin’s ability to provide adequate protection thereby exposing the skin to irritants, environmental factors, and allergens.
Eczema is found in the families with a history of other allergens, asthma and hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Children whose parents have a history of eczema are more likely to develop atopic disease. Also, in some children, food allergies may trigger symptoms of eczema.
The environmental factor that triggers the symptoms of eczema includes:
- Irritants may be in terms of detergents, soaps, disinfectants, insecticides, pesticides, shampoos, meat or vegetables and juices from fresh fruits.
- These include bacteria such as viruses, Staphylococcus aureus and some certain fungi such as Malassezia yeast.
- These include pets, mold, dust mites, pollens and dandruff (caused by fungi) also trigger eczema symptoms.
- Some certain food such as eggs, soy products, wheat, dairy products, and wheat can help eczema to flare-ups.
- Cold and Hot temperatures. Very cold and hot weather, low and high humidity, as well as perspiration from exercise, can trigger eczema.
- Although stress doesn’t trigger eczema but can worsen the eczema symptoms.
There is no specific cure for eczema. Treatment for the condition is to cure the affected skin and prevent further complication and flare-ups of the symptoms. Also, depending on age and symptoms of eczema, there are certain treatments useful and they are phototherapy, immunosuppressants, biologic drugs, and topical medication. There are also some natural remedies to ease the symptoms.
Treatment for eczema include
- Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments: They are anti-inflammatory medication and help to relieve the symptoms of eczema such as itchiness and skin inflammation. They are applied directly to the affected part of the skin.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors. It is a type of drug that suppresses the activity of the immune system. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the affected area and prevents flare-ups.
- Systemic corticosteroids. Systemic corticosteroids are either injected intramuscular or taken by mouth. It is also used to reduce inflammation
- It is used to reduce itching, especially at night.
- Emollients or moisturizers are used to keep the skin hydrated and also to reduce itching and cracking
- Steroids creams and ointments help to reduce redness, swelling, and soreness
- These are used to treat a bacterial infection that occurs with eczema
- Antifungal and antiviral medications. The two are used to treat the viral and fungal infection that occurs
- Phototherapy. This is the use of ultraviolet A & B (UV) light alone or combined to fight inflammation. This method is usually used to treat moderate dermatitis (inflammation).
- Barriers repair moisturizers. These help to decrease water loss and work to repair damaged skin.
HOME REMEDIES FOR ECZEMA
The easiest and most effective way of treating eczema is to avoid anything that can cause or triggers it. Some certain plants that can help ease the symptoms of eczema. These include:
ALEO VERA GEL
Aloe vera gel can be derived from the leaves of aloe vera plant. Aloe vera gel is known for its antimicrobial, antibacterial, wound-healing and immune system boosting properties.
The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of aloe vera gel are effective in preventing skin from infection. Aloe’s wound healing properties promote healing and help soothes broken skin.
How to use Aloe vera gel
- Get fresh aloe vera plants
- Cut a small part from it and rinse with warm water
- Cut the sharp edges (two sides) of the plant
- And divide the aloe gel into two halves
- Make sure the affected area is already cleaned
- Apply the aloe’s gel and let it sit for ten minutes before you rinse off with warm water
- Apply any ointment of your choice to the affected area
Colloidal oatmeal also called Avena sativa is made from oats that have been grounded and boiled in other to extract their skin healing properties. The oatmeal lotion had anti-inflammatory and antioxidants properties which help to reduce scaling, skin dryness and intense itching.
How to use colloidal oatmeal
- Add colloidal oatmeal powdered to a warm bath and soak
- Bath with this mixture and use a soft towel to dry your skin
- Apply colloidal oatmeal lotions or creams to your skin.
Others home remedies include
- Coconuts oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- Tea tree oil
NOTE: ECZEMA IS NOT CONTAGIOUS.