What is Eczema?
Eczema is a term that describes rashy skin. Eczema is a skin condition that commonly appears in infants and children but can present in adults. Eczema is characterized by red, itchy patches on the skin. There are different kinds of eczema based on the appearance of the affected skin and the triggers that caused skin irritation. Eczema is not contagious and cannot be contracted by direct contact with the skin of someone with the condition.
Symptoms of Eczema
If you notice red, itchy patches on your skin or that of your child, it may be atopic dermatitis. In infants, eczema typically appears as dry, scaly patches on the scalp, cheeks, chin or chest. The patches can release fluid, which can lead to further skin infections and difficulty sleeping.
In children, the symptoms of eczema present differently. The red, itchy patches typically appear on the creases of the elbows, knees or buttocks. It can also begin on the neck, wrists, and ankles. Patches of eczema in children may become bumpy, very itchy and can result in thickened or discolored skin, especially in skin of color
Although relatively rare, adults who get eczema will typically begin to see patches on the neck or creases of the knees and elbows. Severe cases of eczema can appear anywhere on the body, in children eczema is especially the face. This dry itchy skin is especially prone to infections.
How Common is Eczema?
90% of children show signs of eczema before the age of five. The American Academy of Dermatology Association states that between 10 - 20% of children and 1 – 3% of adults have eczema around the world. Eczema appears equally among all races and skin tones.
What Causes Eczema?
While the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, dermatologists have identified specific things that may trigger an eczema rash, such as genetics and environmental factors. Those who get eczema are more likely to have a family member with atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergies. Other common triggers for eczema include:
- Dry skin
- Immune dysfunction
- Insect bites
What are the Types of Eczema?
Dermatologists have identified several types of eczema. Each type is characterized by what triggers the onset of the condition and the physical appearance of the rash.
Symptoms: Red, itchy, scaly rash that may appear at the creases of the elbows and knees. Goosebump-like or thickened areas may arise that can release fluid and become infected if scratched or irritated.
Causes: Environmental triggers, such as cold weather; genetics and family tendency; very dry skin; exposure to allergens or irritants or, immune system disorders.
Symptoms: Red, burning, itchy skin; blisters; oozing fluid; thickened or darkened skin at the site of the rash.
Causes: Reaction to an allergen or irritant that has come in direct contact with the skin. Common causes include detergents, chemicals, metals, skincare products, fragrances, poison ivy and latex.
Symptoms: Painful, itchy blisters that form on the hands or feet. They are filled with fluid and can become infected if scratched or irritated.
Causes: Allergic reaction to a chemical, food or other substance; damp hands or feet; and, stress and anxiety.
Symptoms: Red, itchy, dry skin on the hands.
Causes: Common among people who are exposed to chemicals at work, including hairdressers, cleaners and healthcare professionals.
Symptoms: Red, itchy, scaly patches found on the extremities, head, neck and genitals. Often very itchy, the patches can bleed, ooze and become infected.
Causes: Stress, chronic friction or irritation.
Symptoms: Very itchy, coin-shaped spots.
Causes: More frequent in those who have atopic dermatitis, can be prompted by stress, allergic reactions to irritants, dry skin or insect bites.
Symptoms: Swollen, achy legs and varicose veins; dry, itchy skin on top of the varicose veins.
Causes: Poor circulation in the lower part of the body; fluid is released into the skin.
Treatment Options for Eczema
Eczema cannot be cured, but it can be treated to reduce the appearance of the rash and the uncomfortable symptoms. A dermatologist will make a diagnosis based on the appearance of the rash, itchiness, and redness. The doctor may also do an allergy test to determine if any allergies may contribute to eczema.
An Atlanta dermatologist may prescribe over the counter medications and topical ointments, including antihistamines and corticosteroids to control itching, inflammation, and dryness. More severe cases may require steroids to reduce swelling or antibiotics to treat an infection. Light therapy has also been shown to reduce the appearance of the rash.
Proper treatment of eczema includes a combination of topical treatments, medications and lifestyle changes. It is critical for those who have eczema to identify their triggers and take caution to avoid them. Preventative measures also include the consistent application of gentle moisturizers and swapping household cleansers for natural options.