Symptoms of Eczema
The major symptom of eczema is itchiness of skin. Sometimes itching starts before the appearance of rashes. The rash appears most commonly on face, hands, wrists, back of knees or feet. It also affects other areas.
When affected by eczema, the skin appears very dry, thick or scaly. In fair-skinned individuals, the affected areas look reddish first and then they turn brown, while in dark-skinned individuals, eczema may affect pigmentation and the affected area turns lighter or darker.
In infants, there is a possibility of the itchy rash producing a crusting and oozing condition that appears mainly in the scalp and on face. However, patches may appear everywhere.
Causes of Eczema
The cause of eczema is not known yet. However it is thought that eczema is an overactive response of the immune system of the body to an irritant.
Besides, eczema commonly occurs in families having a history of asthma or other allergies. Also the skin barrier defects can allow germs in and moisture out.
There seems to be a vast variation in the causes of dry itchy skin in different people. Some people develop itchy rash because of specific substances or conditions, while some others develop them after getting in touch with some coarse material. For some others, exposure to certain soaps or detergents, extreme heat or cold or contact with animal dander may cause itchy rash. In some patients, upper respiratory tract infections may trigger the condition and stress can worsen the condition.
Though there is no definite cure, most patients can control the disease with medical treatment and by keeping away from irritants. Good thing is eczema is not contagious.
Treatment of eczema aims at relieving and preventing itching, which can cause infection. Since the skin becomes dry and itchy, creams and lotions are prescribed to keep skin moist. They are usually applied on damp skin, e.g. after a bath, to help skin hold moisture. Itching can also be relieved by cold compresses.
OTC products like hydrocortisone 1% cream or prescription ointments and creams containing corticosteroids are also usually prescribed to reduce inflammation. And if the affected area is infected, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics too.
Other treatments are antihistamines to reduce harsh itching, tar treatments, phototherapy (using UV rays) and drug cyclosporine for those who don’t respond to other treatments.
Prevention of Flare-ups of Eczema
Some simple measures can prevent or lessen eczema outbreaks, like:
- Frequent moisturizing of skin
- Avoid abrupt changes in humidity and temperature
- Avoid overheating and sweating
- Stress reduction
- Avoid scratchy material like wool
- Avoid strong soaps, solvents and detergents
- Keep an eye on foods that cause the outbreak and avoid them