Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that affects about 1 in 10 people. It progresses as a result of an immune system reaction to various substances, ranging from allergens to chemicals. It produces rashes that may be cracked, dry, itchy, painful, red, or sore.
For some people, eczema is a lifelong condition, with flare-ups that can take a few weeks to subside with treatment. Others, especially children, can expect their symptoms to subside as they grow older. While you would not necessarily have a specific rash forever, you may be at a risk for flare-ups when you encounter your triggers.
Symptoms of Eczema
The symptoms of eczema can differ depending on the age of the person. Eczema is common in babies, with dry and scaly patches appearing on the skin. These patches are frequently very itchy.
Constant rubbing and scratching can lead to skin infections. However, in most cases, eczema is mild. The most common symptoms include:
- dry, scaly skin
- crusted, open, or weeping sores
- skin flushing
Some symptoms of eczema are different in people with darker skin.
People with severe cases would need more intensive treatment to relieve their symptoms.
Most people with the condition develop it before school age. Though an estimated 6 out of 10 children will no longer show symptoms by adolescence.
People with the condition would often experience periods of time when their symptoms worsen, followed by periods of time when their symptoms improve or clear up.
Symptoms in children and adults may be different.
Types of Eczema
There are different types of skin conditions that produce eczema. So as to develop a rational treatment plan, it is important to distinguish them though this is often not easy.
Atopic dermatitis has a genetic basis and produces a common type of eczema. It tends to begin early in life in those with a predisposition to inhalant allergies, but it possibly does not have an allergic basis. Typically, rashes occur on the cheeks, neck, elbow, knee creases, and ankles.
Irritant dermatitis occurs when the skin is frequently exposed to excessive washing or toxic substances.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
After constant exposure to the same substance, the body’s immune recognition system becomes activated at the site of the next exposure and produces allergic contact dermatitis.
Stasis dermatitis commonly occurs on the swollen lower legs of people who have poor circulation in the veins of the legs.
Fungal infections can produce a pattern identical to many other types of eczema, but the fungus can be visualized with a scraping under the microscope or grown in culture.
Scabies is caused by an infestation by the human itch mite and may produce a rash very similar to other forms of eczema.
Dyshidrosis is a common but poorly understood health condition which characteristically affects the hands and sometimes the feet by producing an itchy rash composed of tiny blisters on the palms, fingers, toes, or soles.
Lichen Simplex Chronicus
Lichen simplex chronicus produces thickened plaques of skin commonly found on the shins and neck.
Nummular is a non-specific term for coin-shaped plaques of scaling skin most often on the lower legs of older individuals.
In xerosis, the skin cracks and oozes due to excessive dryness.
Seborrheic dermatitis produces a rash on the scalp, face, ears, and sometimes on the chest. In infants, in can produce a weepy, oozy rash behind the ears and can be quite extensive, involving the entire body.
Can eczema be cured?
Some kids outgrow their eczema while others continue to have flare-ups and remissions for life.
Eczema can be treated. Every so often, mild cases can be treated with topical corticosteroids. When the condition becomes more severe, a dermatologist would recommend other treatment options, such as phototherapy and stronger medications that work throughout the body.
For many people, eczema is a lifelong problem. There is no easy fix and at this time, there is no permanent cure.
Collaborating with your dermatologist is the way to go. They can help you understand when to use what medication in treating eczema and suggest other ways to best help you.