Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an inflammation of the skin that usually itches. Itching can be accompanied by redness, peeling of skin and blisters.
Types of eczema
There are many types of eczema:
Baby Eczema: this is the most common type of eczema that sometimes resumes in adulthood.
Contact Eczema: this type of eczema is caused by allergies to some substances that come into contact with the skin. If the allergy is strong, such as in case of contact with a poison ivy, eczema develops within 48 hours. The skin becomes red and itchy and blisters occur. They can be linked to larger blisters, which then crack and are covered with scabies. If small amounts of herbal chemicals are transferred from the hands to the face, eczema may develop on the face.
Some forms of contact eczema are less conspicious. Thus, for example, because of nickel allergies (in, say, a metal watch bracelet) develops a red, scaly, itchy spot at the point where the metal touches the skin.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis: this type of eczema is probably inherited, and it does not cause allergies. In adults, non-diseased dermatitis causes redness, peeling of the skin and itching along the folds that stretch from the nose to the corner of the mouth. In men, this inflammation can extend to the chin growing surface and appear on the hairy parts of the chest and in the middle of the back. Dermatitis can also catch other spots such as groin, armpits, and the area under the breast. The mild form of unhealthy dermatitis in the cartilage is the most common cause of pruritus.
Housewives eczema: young women (and other people) who constantly use laundry liquids, detergents, household cleaning agents, and shampoos often suffer damage to the skin. The skin becomes red, dry and rough, especially on the joints of the fingers. Skin can thicken, crack, peel and itch.
A similar type of eczema occurs in people such as hairdressers and nurses who are, due to the nature of their work, constantly using irritant chemicals which can be found in, for example, strong detergents.
Elderly eczema: the skin of the elderly is often dry, especially on the feet. This can lead to mild redness, peeling of skin, cracking and irritation.
Pompholyx: this type of eczema is distinguished by the eruption of many itchy blisters on the palms and foot. Some blisters can ”explode” and leak, so the skin cracks at that part, becomes inflamed and sensitive. Attack of the pompholyx usually lasts for two to three weeks, after which the eczema disappears by itself, but the attack may come back. It is not known what causes this disorder, although it is believed that in some people it may be activated by emotional stress.
Discoid eczema: discs of red, crusty, moist, and itchy skin usually appear most on hands and feet. The condition lasts for several months, and then it disappears permanently by itself. The cause is uknown.
Approximately one in every 30 people visits a doctor every year because of some form of eczema. Seborrhoeic and housewives eczemas are very common, contact eczema is quite common, pompholyx is relatively rare and discoid eczema is rare.
Eczema is not a life threating condition, but can cause considerable discomfort. Additionally, if the skin is moist and if we are scratching it, bacterial infection is possible. The eczema in such cases looks very moist or full of sores, and ugly.
What to do?
If you have housewives eczema, a contact eczema of the known cause or a mild form of any other eczema, try applying the self-help measures mentioned in the section below. If they do not help, or if the form of the eczema is difficult, contact your doctor.
Self-help: the condition of the eczema on your hands will improve if you avoid contact with irritants by wearing rubber gloves. Thoroughly dry your hands after washing, and apply them with a hand cream to protect the scratched skin.
If you avoid the cause of the contact eczema, whatever it is, the disorder should disappear after several weeks or months.
Professional help: for any of the types of eczema described, your doctor will usually prescribe corticosteroid cream or fat. Strong itching can be partially mitigated by antihistamine tablets. They cause drowsiness and affect your driving ability, so your doctor will advise you to take them only in the evening. Each eczema associated with bacterial infection is naturally treated with antibiotics.
If your doctor suspects you have a contact eczema, he will talk to you about the probable cause. Afterwards, he will perform a patch test (placing suspect substances on the skin) to determine the cause; if the patch test is positive, avoiding this substance in the future should solve the problem.