Coping with Eczema
Eczema is a common skin condition, especially in children, that can cause problems ranging from discomfort to an unattractive appearance of the skin. The most commonly occurring forms of eczema are atopic eczema and contact eczema. Atopic eczema is usually a more systemic reaction, whereas contact eczema occurs directly in relation to skin contact with an allergen or skin irritant. Eczema is quite complex, with some basis in genetics, but also many environmental factors seemingly playing a role in its development. Strangely, some children will stop developing eczema symptoms as they age.
What are the symptoms?
Eczema is an equal opportunity skin disorder, affecting both men and women and all ethnicities equally. The most common signs of eczema are itchy patches of irritated skin.
Eczema can also cause the skin to become very dry, even to the point of cracking and bleeding. It makes your skin look red, inflamed, and even causes it to thicken in some cases. Occasionally, eczema can cause small oozing blisters.
Where does eczema form?
The areas of the body most susceptible to eczema are the insides of the wrists, crooks of elbows, backs of knees, and around the neck. However, eczema can appear pretty much anywhere on the body.
What causes eczema?
As mentioned above, there are different types of eczema. The causes of contact eczema are relatively straightforward since is it a simple skin reaction to an external factor. Usually, the patient can determine the cause by a process of elimination.
Atopic eczema is a little trickier. It seems to be caused by a combination of genetics and environment. Those with a family history of eczema are advised to be extra vigilant and aware of their daily activities in order to prevent or identify a flare-up.
Non-genetic factors that have been linked to eczema include stressful events or illness, dry skin, hormonal fluctuations, pollution, dust mites, mold, pollen, animal fur or dander, weather changes, and harsh soaps or detergents.
One of the more controversial environmental causes of eczema is diet. There are experts who claim that diet does not influence eczema, and others who believe that it can cause outbreaks. In any case, it is probably advisable for eczema sufferers to monitor their diets to discover if any particular foods seem to make their symptoms worse. Some of the major culprits studies have found include milk, nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, and certain types of fish.
What are the treatments?
In addition to eliminating possible triggers, the best way to treat eczema is to moisturize your skin thoroughly. Also, avoid scratching, and don’t wear synthetic clothing.
A dermatologist may prescribe the following medications for more severe cases of eczema:
- Topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- Antihistamines to ease itchiness
- Antiseptic treatments to prevent or treat infection
- Oral antibiotics in the case of skin or systemic infections from open sores caused by cracking or excessive scratching
- Immunosuppressant medications have been shown to inhibit bodily responses to allergens, and thus may be helpful
Alternative treatments that may be beneficial are:
- Evening primrose oil or cod liver oil
- Tea tree oil applied topically to affected skin
- Zinc supplements
- Chinese herbal medicine, with caution
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