Are you bothered by dry itchy skin? Have you noticed red scaly patches that don’t seem to go away? You might be suffering from eczema.
Eczema is an itchy eruption that is caused by inflammation in the skin. Often the skin’s barrier is impaired leading to further irritation and discomfort.
Eczema can be thought of in three general categories: Hereditary, Allergic and Irritant.
- Atopic dermatitis is an inherited and a common form of eczema that often starts in early infancy but can appear at any time of life. Atopic dermatitis might be associated with other medical conditions, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, urticaria, and acute allergic reactions. Atopic skin can also become super-infected leading to impetigo or other skin infections.
- Allergic contact dermatitis results when the skin comes in contact with a specific chemical or substance to which the patient becomes allergic. The allergy can develop within days to weeks after initial exposure, such as with poison ivy, or after years of chronic low-grade exposure (ex. nickel in your earrings or belt buckle makes you break out on your ears and lower stomach). Patch testing is a medical test that can identify the substances causing this reaction. If the cause is not identified and the patient continues to come in contact with the material, the patient can develop severe chronic or recurrent bouts of eczema.
- Irritant reactions result from chemical damage or from activities that impair the skin’s barrier. Corrosive agents found in soaps, cleansers and solvents can destroy skin cells leading to inflammation, redness and scaling. Other potential irritants include dry air, changes in temperature, water and frequent hand washing, metalworking fluids, microtrauma, fiberglass, mechanical trauma, rubber gloves, sodium lauryl sulfate, hydrofluoric acid, and alkalis. No diagnostic test exists for this type of eczema.
- Other specific forms of eczema include stasis dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap, diaper dermatitis, nummular dermatitis, papular dermatitis and asteatotic eczema.
Treatment of eczema begins with a gentle skin care regimen of mild soaps and thick emollients multiple times-a-day. Restoring the skin’s barrier and avoiding potential irritating clothing or chemicals, such as perfumes, is the cornerstone of treatment. Taking cool showers (avoid hot water), using mild laundry detergents and keeping a humidifier in the house and bedroom can also be helpful.
Depending on the severity of the disease, topical corticosteroids, topical immune modulators such as tacrolimus or pimecrolimus, topical and oral antibiotics, or other immune suppressing medications might be necessary. Speak to the dermatologists at Sanova Dermatology about the best way to manage your eczema.
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