Eczema

Eczema is an inflammatory, non-contagious, chronic skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes. It is also called as Atopic Dermatitis. The word ‘dermatitis’ means inflammation of the skin and ‘atopic’ refers to diseases that are hereditary and often occur together. People with atopic dermatitis often have a family history of asthma, hay fever or eczema.

Itchiness commonly occurs in skin folds or creases, such as the back of the knees, elbows, neck and even armpits. People with eczema may lack an adequate protective barrier in their skin, making them more susceptible to skin irritants and allergens. Uncomfortable fabrics, harsh detergent, cosmetics, environmental pollutants, sweat and cold air can trigger an outbreak, complete with a bumpy red rash.

In other words, both a patient’s bad genetic luck and environmental factors may cause eczema outbreaks.

Atopic dermatitis is very common in all parts of the world. The disease can occur at any age but most often affects infants and small children. It may start as early as age 2-6 months, but many people outgrow it by early adulthood. It is also known as infantile eczema, when it occurs in infants.

People living in urban areas and in climates with low humidity are at an increased risk for developing atopic dermatitis.

Management

Eczema usually responds to home remedies and taking proper care of skin reduces the need for medications.

Treatment may vary depending on the appearance and hence stage of the lesions. Acute weeping lesions, dry scaly lesions, or chronic dry thickened lesions are treated differently.

The fingernails of children with infantile eczema should be cut short to prevent them from scratching and aggravating the rash. Infantile eczema usually becomes milder with age and often disappears after age 3 or 4.

Anything that aggravates the symptoms should be avoided. For some patients certain food items, environmental factors like change in weather, usage of wool and lanolin can increase the problem. Temperature changes and stress may cause sweating and changes in the blood vessels of the skin. These aggravate the condition.

Dry skin often makes the condition worse, so bathing and the use of soaps may be reduced. Have short cooler baths and use gentle body washes and cleansers instead of regular soaps. Do not scrub or dry the skin too hard. Apply lubricating creams, lotions or ointment on the skin soon after bathing while the skin is damp. This will help trap moisture in the skin and prevent dryness.

If avoidance of irritants does not reduce symptoms, topical creams and oral medications may be indicated. Topical treatment may include using soothing lotions, topical steroid cream, or other prescribed cream; using mild soaps, or wet dressings. Taking antihistamines can reduce severe itching. Other treatment options include using immunosuppressant drugs or phototherapy.