Eczema

Eczema is a general term used to describe a group of skin diseases in which skin becomes swollen, irritated, and itchy as in a rash. Eczema affects both adults and children, but is most common in babies.

The most common type of eczema is caused by allergy and is called atopic dermatitis. Eczema is not contagious therefore it does not spread from one person to another. You are more prone to have eczema if your parents or family has a history of eczema and allergic conditions like asthma and hay fever.

Causes

Eczema can be triggered by certain substances such as soaps, detergents, cosmetics, jewelry, or sweat. Humidity and psychological stress may also cause eczema.

Symptoms

Eczema causes dry, scaly, red skin that itches or burns. It occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles. In babies, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck.

Treatment

Treatment of eczema aims at keeping the skin moist by applying creams or ointments. Corticosteroid creams are applied to decrease the inflammation. If itching is severe, oral antihistamines are prescribed.

In some cases, a short course of oral corticosteroids (prednisolone) is given to control an outbreak of eczema. Cyclosporine is also used in certain cases. Ultraviolet light therapy is another treatment option for eczema. Tacrolimus (Protopic®) and pimecrolimus (Elidel®) are approved as second-line drugs by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of eczema unresponsive to other treatments.

Preventive Tips

Eczema cannot be cured completely, but you can follow these measures in order to relieve your symptoms and lessen the flare–ups. Such measures include:

  • Avoiding taking long, hot baths. Try to limit bathing to 5 minutes with warm water and a mild soap.
  • Apply a good moisturizer every day right after bathing.
  • Avoid contact with soaps, perfumes, detergents, or jewelry which irritates your skin.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton clothes.
  • Wash your new clothes before you wear them.
  • Use cool compresses to help control itching.
  • Keep your fingernails short to prevent scratching.
  • Exercise and meditation can help those for whom stress triggers an outbreak.
  • Avoid physical activities that promote excess sweating if this triggers an outbreak.
  • Practice good skin hygiene habits.

It is a type of atopic dermatitis that develops on direct contact of the skin with the substance. It could be caused either by an irritant or due to an allergic reaction.

Contact dermatitis caused by an irritant usually looks like a burn with dry, red and rough skin. The rash may be associated with burning sensation and pains.

Common irritants include soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, solvents, cement, hair dyes, shampoo, rubber gloves and chemicals such as pesticides and weed killers.

Allergic dermatitis causes a red and streaky rash at the site of contact of the allergen with the skin. The rash may feel warm and tender which gradually become scaly, thickened and can result in crust formation or oozing of fluid from the lesion.

Common allergens may include nickel or other metals, cosmetics, soap, clothing, topical antibiotics such as neomycin, poison ivy and rubber gloves or shoes.

Diagnosis

  • The diagnosis of contact dermatitis is based on the appearance of the rash and a history of previous contact with an irritant or an allergen.
  • To determine the substance causing the rash a patch testing may be performed.
  • Sometimes skin lesion biopsy or culture of the skin lesion may be used to rule out the possibility of other causes.

Treatment

  • The simple and best treatment for contact dermatitis is washing the affected area with lots of water to remove all the traces of the substance.
  • Subsequent exposure to the irritant or allergen should be avoided.
  • Patients may be prescribed moisturizers along with the corticosteroid cream. In severe cases corticosteroid pills or injections may be needed.
  • To reduce symptoms wet dressings with anti-itch lotion may be used.
  • In case infection occurs antibiotics may be prescribed.

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