Eczema

About

Eczema

About Eczema?

‘Eczema’ refers to a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated skin. There are several different types of eczema, including contact dermatitis - a type of skin irritation resulting from contact with a particular substance.

How eczema occurs

Eczema is caused by the immune system sending inflammatory signals to the skin. This can cause rashes, itchiness, and other eczema symptoms. In the case of contact dermatitis, the immune system is triggered by contact with an irritating substance.

Can eczema kill you?

Eczema is not a fatal disease; however, it can have a significant impact on quality of life.

Causes

What can cause eczema?

Eczema is caused by a range of different stimuli depending upon the type of eczema. It is a good idea to identify what triggers your eczema, so you can avoid it as possible. Cold, damp or dry weather can trigger eczema.

Allergens which can trigger eczema include:

  • Soaps, detergents, shampoos, and other cleaning products
  • Dust mites
  • Pet hair
  • Pollen
  • Mold

Can you have eczema without allergies?

Eczema often occurs as a consequence of an allergic reaction. This is called contact dermatitis. In addition, atopic dermatitis is more common in people who have allergies, such as a pollen allergy. Therefore, eczema and allergies often come together, but you do not need to have any allergies to have eczema.

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Symptoms

Eczema symptoms

Different types of eczema can look very different from each other. There are seven types of eczema. The symptoms of each are outlined below:

Contact dermatitis

  • Red rash
  • Itching
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Bumps or blisters
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Burning

Atopic dermatitis

  • Itching
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Fluid-filled bumps or blisters
  • Thickened, scaly skin
  • Red or brownish-grey patches of skin - often on the feet, ankles, knees, hands, wrists, elbows, neck, upper chest or eyelids.

Diagnosis

How is eczema diagnosed?

Eczema is usually diagnosed through an examination of the affected area and your medical history. Tests are not usually required, although skin samples may be taken to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other conditions.

Which type of eczema do I have?

There are several different types of eczema. To determine which type of eczema you have, you should speak to your doctor or a dermatologist. The different types of eczema have different characteristics. The following table may help you identify which type of eczema you have, but you should always seek medical advice for diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment

How is eczema treated?

The first-line treatment for mild eczema is emollient creams. Emollients are moisturizing creams that help the skin repair itself. Following this, a steroid cream can be tried. Steroid creams contain corticosteroids and come in a range of different strengths. Your doctor will prescribe a strength that is appropriate for the severity of your eczema. If the steroid cream you have been prescribed does not adequately treat your eczema, your doctor will prescribe you a more intense cream. Corticosteroids are also available in ointments, lotions, and shampoos if an alternative preparation is required (e.g. a shampoo would be most appropriate for seborrheic eczema affecting the scalp).

Can eczema be cured?

There is no cure for eczema, but there are several treatments available, including emollients and steroid creams. Some people do grow out of eczema as they get older, so you may find that your eczema goes away over time.

How eczema resolves

An Eczema flare will generally resolve if the area is shielded from further irritation. Emollients work by preventing the skin from drying out, and steroid creams help to reduce the swelling and redness during a flare-up.

What to do when eczema starts

When you first start experiencing eczema symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist. Depending upon the type of eczema and the severity of your condition, they will probably prescribe you emollients and steroid creams. It is also a good idea to identify any possible eczema triggers such as allergens or stress.

Information

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Zenon Andreou studied medicine at University College London, graduating in 2006. His postgraduate training was in hospitals in and around London and he trained for four years in Otolaryngology before completing his training in General practice

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Initial Visit

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