Eczema - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Treatments
4 May 2017
- What are the symptoms of eczema?
- What is Atopic Eczema?
- What is Contact Dermatitis?
- What is Discoid Eczema?
- When to seek medical advice for eczema
- What are the causes of eczema?
- What are the treatments for eczema?
What are the symptoms of eczema?
Eczema makes the affected skin area to become itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red. This can occur at various degrees as some people only have small patches of dry skin, whilst others may have widespread red and inflamed skin all over their them. Although Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, it commonly affects the hands, insides of the elbows, behind the knees, the face and scalp in children. People with Eczema have frequent durations when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as durations when symptoms become more severe which is known as a flair-up.
Eczema is similar to but isn't to be confused with Psoriasis. If you have Psoriasis the affected area can be very itchy, but with something additional occurring. The affected skin area may also burn and sting.
What is Atopic Eczema?
Atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is eczema with one or more allergies present.
Atopic is the most prevalent form of eczema and is common in children although it can occur at any age. Triggers of atopic eczema include;
- allergic reactions and food sensitivities,
- skin infection,
- nutritional deficiencies, high in acid-forming foods in diet, soaps and detergents, environmental sensitivities, and stress
Treatment options for atopic eczema include allergy testing, avoiding triggers and making dietary changes to prevent flare ups.
Also known as irritant hand eczema, Contact Dermatitis is the development of skin inflammation by direct exposure of the skin, commonly from soaps or chemicals. It can also occur through an allergic reaction which is termed allergic hand eczema. Symptoms vary from mild dryness and red skin to very irritable and raw skin, peeling and/or the presence and look of "burnt skin".
What is Contact Dermatitis?
Contact Dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact irritating substances or allergens and is often apparent in people who work with chemicals and rough materials, such as hairdressers, metal and construction workers, cleaners, and people who are required to frequently wash their hands often. This causes the skin to become inflamed, burn, itch and become red. There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic. Contact Dermatitis commonly affects hands or parts of the body that came into contact with the irritant/allergen;
- contact with chemicals
- sensitivity to soaps and detergents
- stress (very common cause of hand symptoms)
- contact with bleach
- latex in rubber gloves, and
- nickel in cheap jewellery
- cold wind, and
- raw food
The most common irritants include:
- Industrial chemicals
- Tobacco smoke
- Acidic Foods
- Skin care products that content alcohol (but not cetyl alcohol)
- Some soaps and fragrances
- Allergens (usually animal dander or pollens)
Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis include:
- Redness and rash
- Burning or swelling
- Blisters that may weep or crust over
What is Discoid Eczema?
Discoid eczema sometimes referred to as nummular eczema, presents with coin-shaped areas of skin inflammation and may appear scattered on the body. Often seen in adults with dry skin and less commonly in adolescents and children. Discoid eczema may occur in conjunction with atopic eczema/dermatitis.
Symptoms include slightly bumpy coin-shaped discs, usually on the lower legs, arms or trunk. Within a week the patches may begin to ooze, and the crusts are itchy, scaly and can become infected. The centre of the disc soon clears but the skin remains dry and it often flakes.
Although discoid Eczema can be triggered by many factors, the most common triggers include a predisposition to dry skin and eczema, plus contact with:
- chemicals and cleaning products,
- soaps, spray deodorants and detergents
Treatment options for discoid eczema include avoiding perfumes (and "fragrance" ingredients), avoid regular soaps and washes (use natural hand/body washes that are sulphate free), use sensitive skin care products and follow a low-chemical diet and improve nutrition to prevent chemical sensitivity.
When to seek medical advice for eczema
See your GP if you believe you have symptoms of Eczema. They should be able to diagnose Eczema by assessing your skin and asking questions such as:
• Whether the rash is itchy and where it appears?
• When did the symptoms first begin?
• Does it come and go over time?
• Is there a history of Eczema in your family?
• Do you have any other conditions, such as allergies or Asthma
• Is there something in your diet or lifestyle may be contributing to your symptoms?
Typically, to be diagnosed with Eczema you will have had an itchy skin condition in the last 12 months and three or more of the following:
• Visibly irritated red skin in the creases of your skin – such as the insides of your elbows or behind your knees (or on the cheeks, outsides of elbows, or fronts of the knees in children aged 18 months or under) at the time of examination by a health professional
• A history of skin irritation occurring in the same areas mentioned above
• Generally dry skin in the last 12 months
• A history of Asthma or Hay Fever – children under four must have an immediate relative, such as a parent, brother or sister, who has one of these conditions
• The condition began prior to the age of 24 months (this does not apply to children under the age of four)
What are the causes of eczema?
The exact cause of Atopic Eczema is unknown, but it's pretty certain it is not down to one attribute alone. Eczema often occurs in people who get allergies – "Atopic" by definition refers to sensitivity to allergens. It can be hereditary and often develops alongside other conditions, such as Asthma and hay fever. The symptoms of Atopic Eczema often have certain triggers, such as soaps, detergents, stress and the weather. Sometimes food allergies can play a part, especially in young children with severe Eczema. You may be asked by your GP to keep a food diary to try to decipher whether a particular food or ingredient makes your symptoms worse. Allergy tests aren't usually required, although they're sometimes helpful in determining whether a food allergy could be a trigger for symptoms. Read about the causes of Eczema.
What are the treatments for eczema?
Treatment for Eczema can help to alleviate the symptoms and instances can improve over time. However, there's currently no cure and severe Eczema and this often has a serious impact on the daily life of sufferers. This can be difficult to cope with both physically and mentally. There's also a heightened risk of skin infections. Many different treatments can be used to control symptoms and manage Eczema, including:
• Self-care approaches, such as minimising scratching and avoiding triggers
• Emollients (moisturising treatments) – applied daily for dry skin
• Topical corticosteroids – applied to lessen swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated skin.
Other types of Eczema include:
• Discoid Eczema – a variety of Eczema that occurs in circular or oval patches on the skin
• Contact dermatitis – a type of Eczema that appears when the body comes into contact with a particular substance
• Varicose Eczema – a type of Eczema that usually affects the lower legs and is caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins
• Seborrhoeic Eczema – a variation of Eczema where red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp
• Dyshidrotic Eczema (Pompholyx) – a type of Eczema that causes small blisters to burst on the palms of the hands