What is Eczema?
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition found in children but may develop at any age. Itis characterized by red and itchy skin. Eczema is often a chronic condition that tends to flare up periodically. It may be accompanied by hay fever or asthma. Some children outgrow the condition while it persists in others through adulthood.
Causes of Eczema
Eczema can be caused as a result of a gene variation that affects the skin's ability to provide protection against various irritants and allergens in the environment. Various factors that may result in eczema-related symptoms include:
- Harsh chemicals in soaps
- Hot and cold temperatures
- Some type of foods
Symptoms of Eczema
Signs and symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry skin
- Red to brownish-grey patches
- Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
- Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching
Diagnosis of Eczema
Your doctor will examine your skin and review your medical history. Also, patch testing or other diagnostic tests may be performed to rule out other skin conditions.
Treatment of Eczema
Treatments for eczema include:
The mainstay for eczema treatment is emollients (moisturisers) as these replace the moisture that is lacking from the eczematous skin.
They should be applied in plentiful amounts, 4-5 times a day if possible and applied in the direction of hair growth rather than rubbing.
- Corticosteroid cream or ointments can control itching and help repair the skin.
- Antibiotic cream is usually quite effective against bacterial infections of the open sores or cracks in the skin.
- Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone can control inflammation in case of severe eczema.
Soaps/shower gels and cosmetic moisturisers should be avoided and emollients used is place of soap.
There are specialist medications for severe cases.
- Wet dressings: This method involves wrapping the affected regions with wet bandages after applying corticosteroids. This method is found to be effective against severe atopic dermatitis.
- Light therapy: The simplest form of phototherapy, commonly called light therapy, involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight. This treatment method is generally useful for patients who fail to obtain results after using topical treatments.
- Counselling: People may find it difficult to deal with these skin conditions in many cases and talking with a counsellor can at times help relieve the embarrassment and frustration associated with these conditions.
Prevention of Eczema
Preventive measures that may help in avoiding the condition include:
- Moisturize your skin at least twice a day by applying creams, ointments, or lotions to seal in moisture.
- Try to identify triggers that can worsen the condition and avoid them.
- Certain food items, like eggs, milk, soy, or wheat, may sometimes result in flares in infants and children. You should consult with your child’s doctor in such cases, to identify the potential food allergies your child might be having.
- Use oral anti-itch or allergy medication to help you avoid scratching your skin and making the condition worse.
- Avoid very hot water or soaking your skin for longer than 15 minutes when taking a bath.
- Use only gentle soaps.
- Pat dry yourself carefully with a towel rather than rubbing your skin vigorously.
- Wear smooth-textured clothing that keeps your body cool.