What is Eczema?
Eczema is an umbrella term for many types of itchy, dry, and red rash-like skin conditions. It can happen in all areas of the body, and eczema is not contagious. When talking about eczema, doctors and patients usually refer to atopic dermatitis because it’s the most common form of eczema. Here are the different types of eczema:
Adult seborrheic dermatitis
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap)
Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema)
Stasis dermatitis (varicose eczema)
The symptoms will look different between individuals and the type of eczema one has. The general symptoms of eczema include:
• Red or darker patches
• Rough, dry, or scaly skin
• Oozing clear fluid, crusting, or scaling
Knowing the general symptoms helps to narrow down the disease affecting you, but it doesn’t stop there. Each type of skin condition considered eczema comes with unique symptoms which may or may not include those of the general symptoms. Therefore, while they have similar symptoms, they also each have unique causes that are important for a professional to pinpoint to best treat your type of eczema. Here are the symptoms for each type of eczema you could experience:
Atopic dermatitis – dry skin, red or brown itchy patches, small bumps, or thickened, cracked, swollen or scaly skin
Contact dermatitis – red skin, itching, dry, cracked, or scaly skin, bumps and blisters, or swelling
Adult seborrheic dermatitis – red itchy skin, dandruff in hair, or greasy patches of skin
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) – red and moist skin, yellow and greasy patches, or scaly or flaky
Discoid dermatitis – patches that are red or brown, circular or oval shaped, millimeters or centimeters wide, crusty and dry, or swollen
Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema) – itching and burning on hands and fingers turning into itching or oozing blisters
Stasis dermatitis (varicose eczema) – swelling, red or discolored skin, scaling and dryness, itching, leg aches, twisted and enlarged veins, or oozing
In general, the exact cause of eczema has yet to be discovered, but medical science is close to putting the pieces together. Right now, we know that its due to individual genetics and environmental factors. It’s the environmental factors that trigger the problem, but an individual’s overreacting nerve cells and immune system perpetuate the issue. Those with a family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, and hay fever also have a predisposition to eczema.
To make matters worse, the issues with eczema are amplified by the itch-scratch cycle. When eczema is itchy, scratching the affected area opens up the skin to irritants in the environment. The irritants cause the immune system to inflame the affected area and cause more itchiness that one will scratch at again. This cycle continues to worsen eczema.
Here’s what we know so far about the causes of each type of eczema:
Atopic dermatitis – Irritants and/or allergens, genetic mutation that makes the immune system overreact to allergie.
Contact dermatitis – Chemical irritants and/or allergens.
Adult seborrheic dermatitis – Association with a yeast called Malassezia, stress, cold and dry weather.
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) – Too much sebum from oil glands and association with a yeast called Malassezia.
Discoid dermatitis – Dry and sensitive skin, cold weather, and irritants.
Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema) – Fungal skin infection, reaction to something touching skin, excessive sweating, and allergies.
Stasis dermatitis (varicose eczema) – Poor circulation.
Unfortunately, eczema is not curable yet, so the most effective treatment for eczema is long term control and prevention. The best treatments are moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, itch relieving, immune system downregulating, and antibacterial. They focus preventing itch and preventing the immune system from overreacting.
While home remedies have taken on popularity, there are little to no studies confirming the effectiveness of such treatments. In some cases, it might even do more harm than good considering their minimal effectiveness versus the unknown side effects they could have on your body. It’s best to follow the medical advice of a dermatologist because they know what will or will not treat the disease. Here are some popular home remedies that you should be careful with:
• Coconut oil
• Colloidal oatmeal
• Relaxation techniques
Over the Counter Medication
While some over the counter (OTC) medications are effective enough to be given as prescriptions, other OTC medications have limited effects on disease. They might help for mild to moderate cases, but they aren’t usually effective on severe ones. If used incorrectly and without guidance, they might even prove to be ineffective and produce unforeseen side effects. However, a dermatologist can tell you whether or not these can be effective for you. Here are some OTC medications that may or may not be included in a treatment plan given by one of our dermatologists:
Moisturizers – “Locks in” moisture into the skin to protect it against irritants and allergens.
Corticosteroids – In creams or ointments, it relieves itching and skin inflammation.
Prescriptions, alongside professional medical advice, are the most effective form of treatment. Home remedies and over the counter treatments take plenty of time, energy, and money, yet are uncertain to work. Our experienced dermatologists take your unique skin, set of symptoms, and medical history into account to take the guessing game out of your road to recovery. Here are some prescriptions your dermatologist might include in your personalized treatment plan:
Corticosteroids – Relieves itching and skin inflammation.
NSAID – These are non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs that reduces skin inflammation.
Moisturizers – Prescription-strength moisturizers “lock in” moisture into the skin to protect it against irritants and allergens.
Antibiotics – Kills bacteria that could cause infection and an overactive immune response.
Antihistamines – Relieves itching.
Immune system controlling drugs – Relieves skin inflammation and immune system reactions.
Post Treatment Prevention
After being seen by one of our SkyMD dermatologists, you’ve been equipped with the treatment plan and prescription(s) to treat your discomfort. However, disease can be persistent, so you have to be too. A skin care routine and a set of disease-preventing habits recommended by our dermatologists are essential for long term prevention. Here are some popular prevention strategies that could supplement your personalized treatment plan:
• Avoid triggers such as irritants, allergens, or certain weather conditions
• Moisturize often to protect against irritant and allergens
• Avoid scratching the itches so you don’t fall into the itch-scratch cycle
• Manage stress effectively
• Avoid excessive sweating
• Wear soft materials that won’t stimulate itching
• Gently pat to dry skin to prevent itching and scratching