Eczema or atopic dermatitis is described as a chronic skin condition that leads to itchy and scaly rashes. Individuals who have eczema usually have a family history of allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma.
What is the cause and who are at risk?
Always bear in mind that eczema is quite common among infants and at least half of those clear up by the time they reach 3 years old. Among adults, the skin condition is generally a chronic and recurring condition.
In most cases, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs in the skin which causes chronic inflammation. Take note that this inflammation causes the skin to become itchy and scale-like in appearance. The chronic scratching and irritation can cause thickening of the skin and have a leather-like texture. Being exposed to environmental irritants can aggravate the symptoms as well as exposure to water, skin dryness as well as stress and temperature changes.
What are the symptoms?
- Blisters that ooze and crust
- Intense itchiness
- Redness or inflammation of the skin around the blisters
- Dry and leather-like areas in the skin
- Children below 2 years old usually have skin lesions that start on the elbows, cheeks or knees
- Among adults, the rash typically involves the interior surfaces of the elbows and knees
- Raw areas of skin due to scratching
How eczema is diagnosed
The diagnosis of this skin condition is mainly based on the appearance of the skin as well as the personal and family history. The doctor will assess the lesions to rule out other possible causes. In some cases, a skin lesion biopsy is carried out but not always needed to confirm a diagnosis.
When to consult a doctor
It is recommended to schedule an appointment with a doctor if the eczema does not seem to respond to the moisturizers used, symptoms become worse, signs of infection are present or the treatment used is not effective.
What are the available treatment options?
A doctor should be consulted so that a diagnosis of eczema is given since it can be difficult to differentiate from other skin issues. Remember that the treatment must be guided by a doctor.
The treatment tends to vary depending on the appearance of the lesions. The acute “weeping” lesions, scaly dry lesions or chronic dry, thick lesions are treated in a different way.
Take note that anything that worsens the symptoms must be avoided as much as possible including any food allergens as well as irritants such as lanolin and wool. In some cases, dry skin can also make the condition worse. When bathing or washing, it is vital to keep the water exposure as brief as possible and utilize less soap than usual. After bathing, it is important to seal in the moisture in the skin by applying a lubricating cream on the skin while it is moist. The changes in temperature and stress can even cause sweating and worsen the condition.
When it comes to weeping lesions, it might include mild soaps, soothing moisturizers or wet dressings. Topical corticosteroids or mild anti-itchy lotions can soothe the less severe or healing areas or dry scaly lesions.
As for chronic dense areas, they are treated with creams or ointments that contain corticosteroids, tar compounds and ingredients that soften or lubricate the skin. The systemic corticosteroids might be given to minimize the inflammation in some severe cases.
At the present, eczema can be treated with the latest treatment using skin medications that are called as topical immunodulators that are free from steroids. These medications include tacrolimus and pimecrolimus. Based on studies conditions, there is a high success rate among those who use these new medications.