Eczema - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that causes the skin to become itchy, inflamed, rough, cracked, and sometimes blisters. This disease affects over 10% of the population and is more common in children than in adults. There are different types of eczema, the most common being atopic dermatitis, which causes inflammation of the skin. Currently, the disease has no cure, but its symptoms can be managed through treatment.

This is a picture of a man scratching his hand.

Types of Eczema

  • Atopic Dermatitis
  • Nummular eczema
  • Stasis Dermatitis
  • Contact Dermatitis
  • Dyshidrotic Eczema
  • Hand Eczema
  • Neurodermatitis

What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is the most prevalent kind of eczema and falls into the category of atopic diseases which include hay fever and asthma. A person with atopic dermatitis will commonly suffer from the other two conditions. This type of eczema often starts during childhood, getting milder with age.

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?

The cause of atopic eczema is the weakening of the skin's natural defenses against external elements. This weakening lowers the skin's immunity against allergens and irritants. Other factors, such as bacterial infection, dry skin, hormones, adverse temperatures, low immunity, and stress, can also cause eczema.

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis

  • Itchy rashes in the folds of your knees and elbows
  • Drying and scaling of the skin
  • Itchy skin and bumpy rashes
  • Rashes on the cheeks and scalp in babies
  • In babies, rashes and itchiness interfere with their sleeping patterns
  • Skin thickening, lightening, or darkening in areas where the rashes are
  • Pus or fluid oozing from the small bumps on your skin when you scratch them
  • Skin infection in the event of scratching the infected areas

What is Nummular Eczema?

Nummular eczema is a type of eczema that manifests itself as round, coin-shaped rashes on your skin. Nummular means coin in Latin. This form of eczema causes round sores in infected subjects, especially after an insect bite or a burn.

What Causes Nummular Eczema?

The cause of this condition is currently unclear, but nummular eczema is triggered by damage to the skin from chemical burns, insect bites or scrapes and by having patched or sensitive skin. This disease may also develop from reactions with other kinds of eczema and their triggers, such as nickel and contact dermatitis. Temperature changes, dry skin, stress, surgery, and environmental irritants such as formaldehyde, soap, and metals may also lead to its development.

Symptoms of Nummular Eczema

  • Affected areas have a burning sensation
  • Red, pink, brown, or yellow spots on the skin
  • Dry skin throughout the body
  • Small red spots that transform into massive rashes throughout the skin
  • Itchiness

What is Stasis Dermatitis?

Stasis dermatitis is a skin inflammation caused by weak veins leaking fluid into the skin, resulting in itchiness, swelling, redness, and pain. It occurs commonly in people with low blood circulation or varicose veins. It causes skin discoloration in the lower limbs, especially around the ankles. When left untreated, it can lead to ulcers and sores, severe itching, and thickening of the skin.

What Causes Stasis Dermatitis?

Stasis Dermatitis is usually caused by poor blood circulation in the lower limbs due to underlying conditions such as varicose veins. Poor blood circulation can also result from valve malfunction, which inhibits blood flow to the heart. This causes blood to flood in your legs, leading to swelling and the formation of varicose veins. If left untreated, it can easily lead to a fluid leak in your skin, resulting in stasis dermatitis.

Symptoms of Stasis Dermatitis

The main symptoms of stasis dermatitis are:

  • Swelling in the lower limbs, especially during hot days or after some exercise such as running or even walking
  • Heavy, aching, and itchy legs
  • Varicose vein—described as thick, damaged, and hanging veins in your legs
  • Dry and itchy skin over the varicose veins
  • Open sores or ulcers on the lower legs and upper parts of your feet
  • Discoloration of the skin around your ankles accompanied by itchiness

What is Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a skin condition where the skin is irritated as a result of allergic reactions to substances in the environment, causing the skin to turn red and feel irritated. There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis, which is the irritation of the skin in response to chemical contact with your skin, and allergic contact dermatitis, which is caused by the immune system reacting to irritants you come into contact with, such as metal, or rubber.

What Causes Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis results in the immune system reacting in the form of an allergic reaction after the skin comes into contact with a particular substance. These substances include jewelry, detergents, latex, paint, bleach, poisonous plants, nickel, soaps, perfumes, tobacco smoke, skincare products such as makeup, leather, and chemical solvents.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Common symptoms manifested in contact dermatitis are;

  • Skin itchiness, burns, redness, and stings
  • Hives or itchy bumps on your skin
  • Thickening, scaling, or leathering of the skin if left untreated
  • Pus-filled blisters on your skin
  • Skin rashes, peeling, and ulcers

What is Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Dyshidrotic eczema is characterized by small, itchy, fluid-filled blisters forming on the hands and feet of infected individuals. These blisters disappear after some time.

What Causes Dyshidrotic Eczema?

The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown. However, the disease is associated with atopic dermatitis. This skin condition's common causes are allergies, stress, wet hands and feet, contact with chemical substances like nickel, chromium salt, and cobalt, and atopic dermatitis.

Symptoms of Dyshidrotic Eczema

The main symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema are;

  • Fluid and pus-filled blisters and ulcers on your toes, fingers, soles, and palms
  • Dry, scaly, flaking, and cracking skin
  • Itchy and painful blisters
  • Tenderness and redness of the skin

What is Hand Eczema?

Hand eczema is a type of eczema affecting only the hands. It is common in people who work in cleaning and hairdressing, which involves contact with chemicals. It is also familiar to people who suffer from atopic dermatitis. This is a common skin condition and affects over 10% of the American population, especially people employed in mechanical jobs.

What Causes Hand Eczema?

Hand eczema is mainly caused by contact with chemical substances, commonly in workplaces. It is common in people who work in healthcare, pharmaceutical industries, hairdressers, laundry and dry cleaning and cleaning.

Symptoms of Hand Eczema

The main symptoms of hand eczema are;

  • Redness, itchiness, and redness on your hands
  • Drying and cracking of hands
  • Hands may blister and develop sores
  • If left untreated, your hands may bleed

What is Neurodermatitis?

Neurodermatitis is a skin disease depicted by scaling and chronic itching. It resembles atopic dermatitis in its symptoms which include scaling and swelling of the skin. Itchy skin caused by neurodermatitis worsens when scratched. It is more prevalent in females as compared to males.

What Causes Neurodermatitis?

The causes of neurodermatitis are unknown—however, other types of eczema may result in neurodermatitis. Stress, age, sex, underlying skin conditions, and anxiety disorders can also trigger skin infections.

Symptoms of Neurodermatitis

The main symptoms of neurodermatitis;

  • Thick and scaly patches on your legs, arms, scalp, feet, genitals, back of your hands, and at the end of your neck
  • Itchiness on the patches, especially when you're asleep or relaxed
  • Bleeding and infection when the patches are scratched
  • Swelling, reddening, or darkening

How to Treat Eczema?

Eczema is a disease that often occurs seasonally, disappearing and reappearing after a while. It has no known cure up to date, but certain medications can reduce itchiness, swelling, and allergic reactions. There are two forms of treatment, home-remedy, and medical methods. Home-remedy is often used for patients with mild symptoms. However, it is highly recommended that you reach out to your physician when you see the symptoms to prevent the cycle.

The medical method is used for more severe cases. These forms of treatment are used to eradicate rashes and allergies associated with the disease. Common eczema treatments are creams, ointments, lotions, over-the-counter drugs, cold compresses, and oral medication such as steroids. The standard methods are;

  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or Benadryl to control allergies and itchiness on the skin
  • Ointments and creams such as the corticosteroid creams to reduce itching
  • Prednisone, a steroid administered by mouth to prevent swelling and itching for severe cases
  • For reddish and darkened skin, calcineurin inhibitors can minimize the immune system's reaction to causative agents
  • For skin infection, antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungal drugs can be administered, especially for bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, respectively
  • For excessive rashes, one can be exposed to ultraviolet light through light therapy. Light therapy heals these rashes

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) lists the approval of two drugs for treating moderate forms of eczema called topical immunomodulators. For severe cases, the FDA has dupilumab, or Dupixent, to block specific RNA from combining with cell receptors. This drug is used to reduce itching and skin inflammation by preventing the immune system from reacting to allergens.

How to Prevent Eczema?

To prevent eczema, doctors advise people to regularly moisturize their skin to curb infection, especially during an outbreak. They should also avoid other causative agents such as stress, extreme environmental factors, allergenic chemicals, and materials. People should also avoid foods and chemicals, especially those known to cause allergic reactions.

Those working in mechanical and healthcare system jobs are advised to wear protective clothing such as gloves and eye goggles to prevent chemicals from coming into contact with their eyes.

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Homeopathic claims are not backed by scientific evidence – they are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.

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