Eczema is a common disease that affects your skin. We often express this condition by dermatitis, as it causes skin inflammation. Eczema occurs in various types, including atopic dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, and irritant dermatitis. Atopic eczema is the most common one.
About 31.6 million persons in the United States have eczema. Eczema can affect children and adults. Eczema develops through the first weeks and months after birth. Eczema in young children presents with itching, swellings, and skin infections due to excessive scratching. They may recover early from the disease or continue to have it during adulthood.
Several types of eczema make your skin dry and itchy because it doesn’t retain much moisture. When your skin’s natural barrier weakens, your skin becomes less able to protect you against harmful irritants. Your immune system will overreact to these allergens and cause inflammation in your skin.
If your family has a history of the disease, you are more likely to be at risk. You are also at risk if one or both of your parents are asthmatic, have hay fever, or have any allergy. Any mutation in your genes that control the protein that maintains moist skin can lead to eczema. Some allergens can cause skin irritation, dryness, and inflammation, like pollen, pet hair, or food. Prolonged smoking and exposure to air pollutants, house dust mites, some types of soaps, shampoo, fabrics, wool, and some skin products raise the risk for the disease. Dry weather, heat, cold, and high humidity can cause sweating and make your skin dry, sensitive, and itchy. Food allergy, animal dander, and respiratory infections are principal causes of eczema.
Atopic dermatitis refers to an overactive immune reaction that involves asthma and fever. You can’t catch eczema from anyone because it isn’t contagious. Atopic dermatitis can affect your whole body. It affects the hands (especially fingers), the inner side of the elbows or backs of the knees, and the head.
The severity of eczema varies from one person to another. Mild symptoms have only dry and itchy skin. Sores, inflamed skin, and constant itching occur in severe cases. Lighter skin becomes red and darker skin becomes grey, which is difficult to see on darker skin. Scratching makes your skin bleed, and infections may happen.
Severe itching interferes with sleep resulting in interrupted sleep and late school level. You may notice a swelling in the lower part of your legs, especially during walking. If you have a blood flow problem like varicose veins, you may feel heaviness in your leg, and the skin over the varicose veins will be dry and itchy. If you get stasis dermatitis, open sores may develop on your lower legs and the tops of your feet. Patients with severe eczema need more intensive treatment to relieve their symptoms.
There are no specific laboratory tests for the diagnosis of eczema. Diagnosis of your condition depends on your symptoms and examination of your skin. Your doctor may need to do a patch test to find eczema triggers. A patch test can indicate allergens like skin allergies associated with contact dermatitis.
If you do not treat or control eczema in the early stage, it will lead to some complications, such as:
- Sleep-related problems because it interferes with your sleep
- Skin infections because repeated scratching in your skin lets it bleed and open to microbes that can cause skin infections
- Hay fever and asthma, especially in children under the age of 12
- Often, when you develop one type of eczema, you will be at risk of another.
The idea of treatment is to ease symptoms of eczema. Till now, no specific cure for eczema. The principal treatment of eczema includes: