What is eczema?
The word 'eczema' comes from Greek and literally means 'boiling over'. Normal skin acts as a barrier to prevent water loss and stop skin irritants from penetrating. If you have eczema your skin doesn't do this as effectively as it should, leading to dryness, itching and cracked, scaly skin which lets in bacteria and allergens that can cause an allergic reaction. It is not a contagious condition. Eczema is an allergic condition that affects the skin. Another name for eczema is dermatitis.
Dermatitis is inflammation of the skin. There are several different types of dermatitis, but the one people usually mean when they say eczema is atopic dermatitis. Atopic refers to a lifelong tendency to allergic conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Eczema is a heterogeneous group of different non-infectious skin diseases which may be caused by irritative as well as immune mechanisms and lead to pathological changes in the epidermis and upper dermis (corium). It is the most common category of skin diseases. Eczematous disorders are also frequent occupational diseases. Eczema is a constellation of clinical findings, not a particular disease, and may manifest with erythema, papules, vesicles, crusts, weeping and oedema in its acute phase and with thickening of the skin, lichenification, and scaling in its chronic phase. Itching is a guiding symptom.
Eczema occurs in both children and adults, but usually appears during infancy. Atopic dermatitis often affects people with a family history of allergies. Those who are genetically predisposed and then exposed to environmental triggers may develop eczema. Many people who have eczema also suffer from allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma, or have family members who do.
Eczema can be triggered by just about anything coming in contact with the skin. It occurs in atopic people, who are extra sensitive to skin irritation. Dry, flaky skin appears over red, inflamed areas, causing intense itching and burning. Eczema is a very common condition, and it affects all races and ages, including young infants. About 1-2 percent of adults have eczema, and as many as 20 percent of children are affected. It usually begins early in life, even before asthma or hay fever. Most affected individuals have their first episode before age 5 years.
For some, the disease will improve with time. For others, however, eczema is a chronic or recurrent disorder. Although it can occur just once, it usually occurs on and off throughout life, or lasts the entire lifetime. Eczema can be a difficult, frustrating condition. The natural human desire to scratch or rub an itchy rash just makes the condition worse, and treatments can be slow and are not always completely effective.
There are several different types of eczema. The most common of these is atopic eczema – the kind suffered mainly by babies and children. This book therefore covers atopic eczema in childhood in greater detail than other forms of eczema.
Other types of eczema trouble us at different times of life for a number of reasons. For some, it is work related, whereas others develop a specific allergy to something to which they are exposed at home or work. And, as we get older, our skin becomes drier and thinner, which contributes to certain forms of eczema in old age.
More information on eczema
What is eczema? - Eczema is a heterogeneous group of different non-infectious skin diseases. Eczema occurs in both children and adults, but usually appears during infancy.
What types of eczema are there? - There are various types of eczema, including atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis), contact dermatitis, varicose eczema, discoid eczema, nummular eczema, stasis dermatitis.
What are the symptoms of eczema? - Symptoms of eczema are itching and redness, and may make the skin dry and flaky. Eczema makes the skin more sensitive.
What causes eczema? - The most common cause of eczema is a general allergic over-sensitivity. Other types of eczema arise as a result of causes within the body.
How does eczema affect people? - In eczema, the main problems occur in the epidermis where the keratinocytes become less tightly held together.
How is eczema diagnosed? - Eczema is usually diagnosed through a physical examination. Further tests may include skin biopsy or patch tests.
What are the treatments for eczema? - Avoidance of the aetiological factors is one important therapeutical approach. Symptomatic treatment includes topical and systemic treatment regimens.
How can eczema be prevented? - Eczema flare-ups can be prevented by avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures, dry air, harsh soaps and bubble baths.
How to deal with infant or baby eczema? - For mild to moderate baby eczema, the application of moisturizer on a regular basis can be very helpful. Avoid as many eczema triggers as possible.
What is atopic eczema and its treatment? - Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is the commonest form of eczema and is closely linked with asthma and hayfever.
What is dyshidrotic eczema? - Dyshidrotic eczema is a form of eczema often seen on the hands and feet where tiny blisters of serum form just below the skin's surface.
What is nummular eczema? - Nummular eczema is a chronic eczema characterised by coin-shaped, sharply demarcated lesions. Nummular eczema is more common in males.
What is hand eczema (hand dermatitis)? - Hand eczema, also called hand dermatitis, is a skin condition in which the hands develop a rash and become red, dry, cracked, and inflamed.
What is varicose eczema? - Varicose eczema is due to increased pressure within the veins in the leg. Varicose eczema affects the lower legs people in their middle to late years.
What's seborrhoeic eczema? - Seborrhoeic eczema is a common skin disease affecting any sebum-(natural oil) producing area of the skin.