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What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflammation, dryness, itching, and irritation of the skin. It is a common condition that can affect people of all ages, from infants to adults. Eczema often appears in patches or areas of the skin that may become red, swollen, and itchy. These patches can vary in size and severity.

Eczema causes

  • Genetics: A family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever can increase the likelihood of developing eczema. Genetic variations can affect the skin's barrier function, making it more susceptible to irritation and inflammation.

  • Immune system dysfunction: People with eczema often have an overactive immune response, leading to inflammation and skin irritation. This can be triggered by various internal and external factors.

  • Skin barrier dysfunction: The outermost layer of the skin acts as a barrier, preventing moisture loss and protecting against irritants. In eczema, this barrier can be compromised, allowing allergens and irritants to penetrate the skin and trigger inflammation.

  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain environmental triggers, such as harsh chemicals, detergents, fragrances, and climate changes, can exacerbate eczema symptoms.

  • Allergens: Allergens like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and certain foods can trigger allergic reactions that manifest as eczema flare-ups in susceptible individuals.

  • Irritants: Contact with irritants such as soaps, detergents, synthetic fabrics, and certain metals can lead to skin irritation and worsen eczema symptoms.

  • Microbes: Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can cause eczema to flare up or worsen existing symptoms.

  • Stress: Emotional stress can weaken the immune system and trigger eczema flare-ups in some individuals.

  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menstrual cycles, can influence eczema symptoms.

  • Scratching and rubbing: Persistent scratching or rubbing of the skin can damage the skin's protective barrier and exacerbate eczema symptoms.


Eczema types

  • Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, often occurring in people with a family history of allergies or asthma. It causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, typically appearing on the face, neck, and limbs.

  • Contact dermatitis is divided into two subtypes:

    • Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction to substances like certain metals, latex, or fragrances. Skin becomes red, itchy, and may develop blisters.

    • Irritant contact dermatitis is triggered by direct contact with irritants like chemicals, detergents, or solvents. It leads to dry, cracked, and painful skin.

  • Dyshidrotic eczema is characterized by small blisters on the hands and feet, often accompanied by itching. It can be triggered by stress, allergens, or exposure to metal.

  • Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema, it causes coin-shaped patches of red, inflamed skin that may ooze or crust. It's often triggered by dry skin, irritants, or allergens.

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a common form of eczema that affects the scalp (known as dandruff), face, and other areas with oil glands. It causes red, scaly patches and can be related to yeast overgrowth.


What are the symptoms of eczema?

  • Itching

  • Dryness

  • Redness

  • Inflammation

  • Rashes

  • Cracking

  • Oozing or weeping

  • Thickening

  • Blisters

  • Scabbing

  • Discoloration

  • Sensitive skin

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Changes in texture

  • Secondary infections

  • Emotional impact


Tips for eczema relief

  • Moisturize regularly: Apply a thick, fragrance-free moisturizer or emollient multiple times a day to keep the skin hydrated and prevent dryness. Opt for products that contain ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid.

  • Avoid triggers: Identify and avoid irritants and allergens that can trigger eczema flare-ups. This may include certain fabrics, harsh detergents, perfumes, and specific foods.

  • Cool compresses: Applying cool, damp compresses to itchy areas can help soothe irritation and reduce itching.

  • Short, lukewarm baths: Take short, lukewarm baths to help retain the skin's moisture. Avoid hot water, which can exacerbate dryness.

  • Prescribed medications: Topical corticosteroid creams or ointments prescribed by a dermatologist can help reduce inflammation and itching during flare-ups.

  • Avoid scratching: Keep nails short and wear soft, breathable gloves at night to minimize scratching, which can worsen symptoms.

  • Humidify the air: Use a humidifier in your home, especially during dry months, to maintain optimal humidity levels and prevent skin dryness.

  • Wear breathable fabrics: Choose soft, breathable fabrics like cotton to minimize skin irritation from clothing.

  • Prescription treatments: For severe cases, a dermatologist may recommend systemic medications, such as oral corticosteroids or immunosuppressants, to manage inflammation.

  • Dietary modifications: Some individuals may benefit from identifying and avoiding potential trigger foods. Consult a healthcare professional before making dietary changes.

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