About Symptoms Cause Treatments
What is Eczema?
Around 30% of people will experience problems with dry skin at some stage in their lives.
Eczema, also known as atopic eczema and atopic dermatitis, is the most common skin condition.
Eczema is common among those who have a family history of eczema, hay fever and asthma. These conditions are referred to as "atopy'.
Eczema affects people of all ages but is particularly common in infants and toddlers under five years of age. Many children will ultimately grow out of the condition, but some may continue to experience eczema, while others may just have dry, sensitive and easily irritated skin as adults.
Symptoms, including the extent and severity of the disorder, can vary drastically between cases. Eczema cases range from acute to chronic episodes. Some people call eczema "the itch that rashes".
Eczema is characterised by:
- itchy, scaly patches of skin
- weepy areas of skin
- dry skin
- recurring rashes.
With time, some areas may become thickened or "lichenified".
The cause of eczema, like many medical conditions, is a mix of personal and environmental factors.
- Family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever
- Genetic susceptibility
- Irritants (chemicals, weather, tobacco smoke, air conditioning)
- Allergens (dust, foods, animal fur, soaps, cosmetics etc)
Treatment of eczema focuses on providing relief from symptoms, and preventing and reducing acute flare-ups.
Moisturisers are essential to treat the dry skin. Dry skin is itchy skin! Well moisturised skin also helps to create an effective barrier to germs and skin irritants.
Common eczema treatments include:
- Avoidance of factors known to make it worse
- Moisturising creams. Generally the greasier, the better! Dermatologists prefer the use of creams in a tube or jar rather than a lotion in a pump pack. Squeeze or scoop!
- Soap substitutes, which are less irritating than soap
- Wet bandages to soothe and heal the skin
- Topical steroid ointments
- Antibiotics to treat associated infection
- Antihistamines for reducing itchiness
Currently there is no cure for eczema, but with understanding of the principles, most people can manage eczema effectively.
Dermatologists have access to more specialized treatments, which may be needed in severe cases.