Eczema is a group of common skin conditions that affects up to one out of every ten people at some point in their lives, and tends to be especially common in infants and young children. These conditions often develop as a result of an immune system or allergic reaction, and involve irritation and inflammation of the skin on the face, neck, hands, ankles or anywhere else on the body.
There are several different types of eczema, but the most common is atopic dermatitis, which is an often chronic condition that is inherited as a result of certain allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever. Patients with this condition usually have itchy skin and red rashes on the skin that most often occur during “flare-ups”.
Eczema often appears on the skin as red or brown patches that may be raised and may leak fluid or crust over. Some patients with eczema may experience:
These symptoms can vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the condition, as well as the patient’s individual health. If you are experiencing signs of eczema, you should see a doctor in order to confirm the diagnosis and receive proper treatment to relieve symptoms.
The specific cause of eczema is often unknown, but is believed to be linked to immune system reactions or as a result of exposure to certain substances that trigger symptoms, including household products, animal dander or upper respiratory infections. Eczema also tends to occur in patients with a family history of the disease.
While eczema is common in infants, most tend to outgrow the disease before they reach the age of two. These cases are usually managed simply by avoiding skin irritation through lotions, creams or ointments.
Treatment for eczema aims to relieve symptoms and prevent patients from scratching the skin, which can lead to infection. This can be done through lotions, creams, cold compresses and other over-the-counter products. Since scratching can leading to crusting and scabbing of the skin, it is important for patients to do all they can to avoid scratching. Certain life changes, such as changing mattresses, drapes and blankets on a regular basis, may be needed to avoid exposure to allergens.
For more severe cases, or those that do not respond to over-the-counter treatments, additional treatments may be needed that are prescribed by your doctor, including corticosteroids, antibiotics for bacterial infections, or oral antihistamines to control allergic reactions.
Phototherapy, a form of light therapy, is also effective in treating symptoms of eczema by exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural or artificial light. This procedure is often performed in conjunction with medication, but may have several complications, including premature aging of the skin and an increased risk of skin cancer.
New treatments are constantly being studied for treatment of all types of eczema. We will determine which type of treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your individual condition.
The most effective treatment for eczema is to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place by avoiding triggers, reducing stress and regularly moisturizing skin. It may be difficult to always prevent symptoms from flaring up, but in most cases, they can be effectively managed so that patients can continue to partake in their everyday activities.