WHAT IS ECZEMA?
Eczema Treatment – Eczema is a very common skin condition wherein your skin becomes itchy and turns red from time to time. Although it is frequently noticed in children, it can also occur in adults.
There are 7 known types of Eczema in today’s world, each with a different set of causes and associated symptoms. However, the general characteristics, that spans across all types of Eczema, are as follows:
- Dry skin, which is scaly in texture
- Reddish skin colouration
- Itchiness of the skin, which may be intense
TYPES OF ECZEMA, ITS CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
There are 7 types of Eczema known to us today. They are as follows:
1) Atopic Dermatitis
This is the most common type of Eczema out of all. It is usually present in children and tends to fade away over time. ‘Atopic’ means allergy. Hence, as the name suggests, Atopic Dermatitis occurs along with the presence of underlying asthma or allergies.
Atopic Dermatitis occurs when your skin’s protective barrier weakens. This leads to a weakened ability of the skin to protect you from allergens/irritants. This barrier weakness can be caused by a combination of the following reasons:
- Dry skin
- Problems with the immune system
- Environmental triggers
- Rashes on the knees or creases of the elbows
- Lighter, darker or thicker skin in the rash regions
- Small bumps on the skin that may ooze fluid upon scratching
- Rashes on the scalp and/or cheeks (often noticed in babies)
- Infections in the spot where you scratch the skin
2) Contact Dermatitis
This occurs when your skin comes in contact with a substance and reacts adversely, causing irritated and itchy rashes. There are two types of Contact Dermatitis – Allergic Contact Dermatitis (when your immune system reacts to irritants such as latex or metal) and Irritant Contact Dermatitis (when your skin reacts to chemicals or other substances).
- Detergents or Soaps
- Make up products or Jewellery
- Latex or Metal Paint
- Tobacco smoke
- Poisonous plants (poison oak, poison ivy, etc.)
- Rashes characterised by itchiness, reddish colour, as well as burning/stinging skin
- Itchy bumps, or ‘Hives’, on the skin
- Blisters that may ooze fluid and crust over
- Transformation of skin over time to have a scaly and leathery texture
Eczema This type of Eczema is more commonly found in women than men, and is characterised by the formation of small blisters on your hands and feet.
- Damp hands and feet
- Exposure to substances such as Nickel, Cobalt, etc.
- Blisters on your hands and feet that may ooze fluid
- Itchy and painful blisters
- Scaly, flaky or cracked skin texture
4) Hand Eczema
As the name suggests, this type of Eczema only occurs on your hand. It is usually found in those jobs, such as hairdressing or cleaning, that make use of chemicals for their services.
As mentioned earlier, people who work in jobs that make use of harsh chemicals are more prone to developing Hand Eczema. A few such jobs include:
- Healthcare industry
- Laundry or Dry cleaning
- Reddish, itchy and dry skin on the hands.
- Sensitive skin, prone to cracking or formation of blisters.
Mostly similar to Atopic Dermatitis, this type of Eczema causes scaly skin texture all over the body.
This type of Eczema is usually observed in those people who already have an existing Eczema or Psoriasis. However, the exact cause of Neurodermatitis is still unknown to doctors, though many equate it to factors such as stress.
- Thick and scaly patches of skin on the arms, legs, neck, scalp, bottom of the feet, inside of the hands, and/or genitals.
- Tendency of itchiness and irritation in the scaly patches.
- Bleeding and/or chances of infections if the patches are scratched.
6) Nummular Eczema
The term ‘Nummular’ means coin in Latin. Hence, as the name suggests, Nummular Eczema causes round, coin-shaped rashes along the skin. This unique shape differentiates this type of Eczema from the rest, and is known to be extremely itchy.
- Pre-existing Eczema, such as Atopic Dermatitis, can increase the chances of Nummular Eczema.
- Dry skin
- Allergic reaction to chemical or metal substances
- Adverse reaction to insect bites.
- Round, coin-like rashes on the skin.
- Tendency of severe itchiness for the rashes.
7) Stasis Dermatitis
In this type of Eczema, the veins are weakened, causing the fluid inside to leak out into the skin. This causes swelling of the site, along with redness, itchiness and pain.
- Blood flow problems in the lower body.
- Malfunctioning of valves that push blood from the legs to the heart, causing swelling of the legs.
- Swelling in the lower legs during the day, when you’ve been walking.
- Aching and heaviness in the legs.
- Tendency to develop Varicose Veins (thick and damaged veins).
- Dry and itchy skin on the site of the Varicose Veins.
- Tendency to develop open sores on the lower legs, especially the top of the feet.
Eczema is a condition that often come and goes. Some start off harsh and fade away eventually, whereas some stay with you for life and can only be suppressed from time to time. Depending on the type of Eczema you experience, treatment method varies, and often require trial and testing before a sure-shot solution is determined.
A few of the treatment methods commonly used include:
- Antihistamine medications that help control the itch.
- Corticosteroid creams or ointments that soothe irritation of skin.
- Calcineurin inhibitors to suppress the immune system’s reactors to reduce itchiness or redness of skin.
- Antibiotics to treat skin infections.
- Light therapy using Ultraviolet radiation to heal the rashes.
- Cool compresses to alleviate some of the irritation (usually before corticosteroid creams are used, so as to improve cream absorption).
By following these few steps, you can greatly reduce the chances of developing Eczema, or control your existing condition:
- Cool compress application
- Colloidal oatmeal or baking soda baths
- Moisturization of skin using oil-based creams
- Pat dry skin after showers/baths instead of rubbing
- Usage of fragrance-free soaps, perfumes, cleansers, makeup, etc.
- Usage of gloves and protective gears while handling chemicals
- Wearing loose-fitted clothes of soft fabrics, such as cotton
Dr Ang will help you determine the cause of your itchy skin and an accurate diagnosis is important for treatment.