Eczema is the common name for the dermatology condition known as atopic dermatitis. This condition is defined by the appearance of red, itchy skin. Eczema can occur in people of any age. Many suffering from eczema deal with decreased confidence, increased frustration and even difficulty sleeping. While there is no cure for eczema, symptoms can be improved and mitigated with treatment.
The scientific cause of eczema is not currently known. However, it is believed that a combination of environmental factors and genetics play a role.
Certain behaviors and lifestyle choices may contribute to a person’s likelihood of contracting eczema, as well. Possible eczema causes and contributing factors include:
- Naturally dry skin
- Family history
- Chronic stress
- Immune system dysfunction
- Environmental factors
Eczema is most common in those who live in urban areas. While commonly associated with the hands, eczema can occur on any part of the skin. Similarly, while juvenile eczema is frequent, the condition occurs in adults, as well.
Eczema symptoms vary depending on the severity of the condition and the person it is affecting. The most common issue associated with eczema is red, flaky skin. The affected skin can also be described as:
Eczema affects everyone differently; where one person may simply have itchy, red skin another may experience thick scales or patches.
Types Of Eczema
Some of the most common forms of dermatitis (eczema) include the following:
Atopic dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. It describes the dry, sensitive skin associated with allergies and asthma that tends to be inherited. It is common in infants and toddlers who may “grow out of it” by school age. Moderate-to-severe cases require ongoing treatment and appropriate skincare to prevent flare-ups.
Asteatotic dermatitis: This form of dermatitis is caused by dry skin, particularly on the lower legs of elderly people. This is due to a reduction in sebum, the natural oil in skin that normally protects and moisturizes the skin.
Contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is a localized skin reaction to an allergen or irritant, causing redness, inflammation, and intense itching.
Dyshidrotic dermatitis: Dyshidrotic eczema, also called pompholyx or vesicular hand/foot dermatitis, causes small, intensely itchy blisters to form on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
Nummular dermatitis: Nummular eczema is identifiable by coin-shaped patches of irritated skin, occurring sometimes after a skin injury or insect bite.
Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is sometimes called “cradle cap” in newborns. This rash often appears on the scalp, behind the ears, or on the face, and it is identifiable by waxy, yellowish, scaly patches of skin.
Stasis dermatitis: This shows up as red, irritated skin on the lower legs and is often associated with circulation problems.
Eczema is considered an ongoing, chronic condition. If left untreated, eczema can lower quality of life and lead to frequent skin infections. While there is no easy cure for eczema, the right treatment can make symptoms much more manageable. Eczema treatments seek to repair the damaged skin, bring down inflammation and prevent further infections.
Talk to your dermatologist about which of the following common eczema treatments may be best for you:
- Topical itch creams
- Inflammation-reducing corticosteroids ointments
- Steroid-free anti-inflammatory creams
- Anti-infection medication such as oral antibiotics
- Oral anti-inflammatory medication such as steroids
- Ultraviolet light therapy
- Stress reduction
While not a replacement for medical treatment, certain eczema home remedies can reduce symptoms in the short term and provide comfort. These include:
- Warm baths
- Skin moisturizers and gentle cleansers
- Wet compresses
- Air humidifiers
- Non-irritating clothing
These home remedies work by avoiding potential flare-ups and increasing skin moisture.