Eczema: causes, types, symptoms and treatments

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What is eczema

Eczema is a general term for a wide range of acute and chronic inflammatory skin diseases of a non-infectious nature, accompanied by itching, redness, inflammation and rash.

The word “eczema” comes from the Greek language, which means “to boil up”, and is a perfect description of one of the symptoms of this disease – a rash that resembles bubbles of boiling water.

Symptoms of eczema

Eczema is characterized by sudden exacerbations and remissions. Today, for example, she can suddenly and in every sense clearly declare herself, and in a few weeks her symptoms will completely and completely disappear.

In children, eczema may appear on the face, chin, or chest. In adults, it is more often seen on the neck, elbows, inside of the palms and under the knees. At the same time, eczema is very capricious and can manifest itself anywhere and anytime. It is not at all necessary that, having appeared once, say, on the elbow, it will continue to affect this part of the body.

Despite the fact that redness and a rash that causes burning and itching are typical manifestations of eczema, this disease is very diverse and can manifest itself with a variety of symptoms. Here are just a few of them:

  • painful redness of the skin with characteristic itching;
  • a blistering rash that can get “wet” and peel off;
  • mild to moderate itching, which in some cases can turn into severe inflammation of the skin;
  • dry, cracked, scaly or keratinized skin;
  • yellow scales on the eyebrows and scalp.

When diagnosing eczema, it is important to remember that its symptoms are very individual, each person will have their own. You may have one symptom of this disease, or all together. And it is not at all necessary that the same type of eczema will have the same manifestation pattern in two different patients. The only way to know for sure if your skin problems are eczema is to make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Types of eczema

To date, it is difficult to identify a single classification of eczema. Its forms are usually determined depending on the location, nature and nature of occurrence. There are 5 most common forms of this disease.

Atopic dermatitis

The terms “eczema” and “atopic dermatitis” are often used interchangeably, but this is not entirely true. Atopic dermatitis is a severe, chronic and often relapsing form of eczema that is most often caused by a genetic predisposition. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by dry, cracked, scaly skin accompanied by redness and itching. This type of eczema most often appears on the folds of the arms, legs, neck, and also in the chest area. The reasons for its appearance can be very different, from changing seasons to allergies to powder and soap. Stress and food allergies can also trigger this ailment.

contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that appears as a red, dry rash that makes the skin slightly swollen and itchy. As a rule, a rash occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or substance, which, due to the individual characteristics of each person, can cause an allergic reaction. From the moment of contact with the allergen and before the onset of symptoms, it can take a matter of minutes or days. The most common triggers for allergic contact dermatitis are shower gels, shampoos, soaps, laundry detergents, cosmetics, and even jewelry. This list also includes detergents, bleaches, disinfectants, as well as various fertilizers and pesticides.

True eczema

True or, as it is also called, idiomatic, eczema is a classic form of manifestation of the disease. It is rather difficult to establish the specific cause of its occurrence. It occurs sporadically and for no apparent reason. Most often, this eczema manifests itself in the form of small nodules of a rash filled with a clear liquid. Subsequently, they can turn into weeping erosions, overgrow with crusts, scales and be accompanied by unpleasant sensations of burning and itching. If all of these eczema symptoms appear at the same time, doctors diagnose true eczema. In addition, this type of eczema is characterized by a symmetrical rash. If rashes, say, appeared on one arm, they often occur on the second.

seborrheic eczema

Seborrheic eczema tends to occur on areas of the skin rich in sebaceous glands. Although seborrheic eczema most commonly affects the scalp, it can appear in and around the ears, on the eyebrows, nose, back, between the shoulder blades, and on the upper chest. This type of eczema appears as greasy yellow or white scales. Although seborrheic eczema is a chronic condition, long-term remission can be achieved with adequate treatment.

microbial eczema

Microbial eczema is an allergic reaction of the body that occurs against the background of a weakened immune system when the skin is chronically infected with bacteria, most often staphylococci or streptococci. As a rule, microbial eczema occurs in places of cuts, abrasions and long non-healing wounds and manifests itself in the form of large inflamed areas covered with scaly skin, purulent crusts or weeping erosion. Despite the fact that microbial eczema can occur on any part of the skin, even on the head, it still most often appears on the hands and feet.

Causes of eczema

Contrary to popular belief, eczema is not a contagious disease and therefore cannot be contracted.

And although the exact causes of eczema are unknown, it is believed that it may be caused by an overly sensitive immune system to certain external stimuli, which manifests itself in the inflammatory process of the skin in the form of redness, rashes and itching.

Research also suggests that some people with eczema have a mutation in the gene responsible for making filaggrin, a protein that helps maintain a healthy epidermal barrier. Without enough filaggrin, the skin begins to lose moisture, dry out and crack, thereby opening the gate for bacteria and viruses. Therefore, many people with eczema have very dry skin that is prone to frequent infections.

Most experts agree that eczema is based on a combination of internal and external causes – a hypersensitive immune system and triggers, which may include the following factors, but are not limited to:

  • genetic predisposition;
  • disruption of the endocrine system of the body;
  • disruption of the gastrointestinal tract;
  • an allergic reaction to pathogens of fungal and bacterial infections;
  • allergic reaction to the use of household chemicals;
  • taking certain medications;
  • an allergic reaction to a number of foods;
  • house dust mite;
  • stress;
  • hypothermia, overheating and the negative effects of ultraviolet radiation.

Treatment and prevention of eczema

Since eczema is a chronic disease, it is impossible to get rid of it once and for all. The key to staying healthy lies in relieving and preventing symptoms.

Specific treatments for each patient are selected individually, based on the symptoms and type of eczema. As a rule, dermatologists recommend using moisturizing creams, antihistamines, and, if necessary, topical corticosteroids to eliminate symptoms that have already appeared. In some cases, light therapy can be a good helper in the treatment of eczema.

To prevent eczema, it is necessary, if possible, to identify and eliminate the triggers of external influences that initially provoked its appearance. However, do not forget that for each person eczema manifests itself in its own way, respectively, and the external processes that trigger its appearance are different for everyone. When trying to determine the trigger mechanism for eczema, it should be remembered that sometimes it appears only after a while after external exposure, and it can sometimes be problematic to track it.

Therefore, in order to minimize the risk of eczema, you need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle. People prone to inflammation of the epidermis are not recommended to overdry the skin, they should drink plenty of water, do not abuse the hot bath and shower, and use household chemicals with caution.

To avoid further spread of eczema, try not to scratch the affected skin and limit contact with materials that can irritate it. Wear soft, breathable clothing made from natural fabrics, preferably cotton or linen. Avoid fabrics that can itch, such as wool and rayon.

An important step in preventing eczema is a healthy diet. To reduce the risk of symptoms, alcohol, coffee, canned food, smoked foods, spicy foods, corn, and citrus fruits should be eliminated from the diet whenever possible.

Photo: Vostock-photo

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