Updated: October 30, 2019
Eczema is a reaction pattern that the skin produces in a number of diseases. It begins as red, raised tiny blisters containing a clear fluid atop red, elevated plaques. When the blisters break, the affected skin will weep and ooze. It is not a single health condition. Atopic dermatitis is a most common causes of eczema.
People with eczema often have allergies or asthma along with itchy, red skin. Tiny blisters that can weep and ooze, eventually producing crusted, thickened plaques of skin are the symptoms of eczema. It is almost always itchy which which may be intense in severe cases.
This skin condition is very common in children, however people of any age can get it too. There are several types of eczema and each type has its own set of symptoms and triggers. As the treatment option differs for each type, it is important to distinguish the different causes of eczema. For example, if eczema is produced by skin exposure to a specific substance, it can be helpful to avoid it. Keeping the skin healthy and moisturized can prevent certain kinds of eczema.
There are several distinct types of skin conditions that produce eczema. It is important to distinguish them to choose an effective treatment plan which is often not easy. The different type of conditions are:
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema which is has a genetic basis. Atopic dermatitis most often begins before age 5 and may persist into adolescence and adulthood. It is chronic and tends to flare periodically and then clears up for a time, even for several years. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.
Signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis vary widely from person to person and include:
Healthy skin helps retain moisture and protects you from bacteria, irritants and allergens. Eczema is related to a gene variation that affects the skin's ability to provide this protection as your skin's natural barrier against the elements is weakened. As a result of this your skin gets easily affected by environmental factors, irritants and allergens. It is likely caused by a combination of factors such as genes, dry skin, an immune system problem and triggers in the environment.
Food allergies may also be a cause of eczema in some children.
Contact dermatitis is a result of a reaction to substances you touch producing red, irritated skin. There are two types of contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is an immune system reaction to an irritant like latex or metal and Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin is repeatedly exposed to excessive washing or toxic substances.
In contact dermatitis:
Contact dermatitis happens when you touch a substance that irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction. The most common causes are:
Dyshidrotic eczema causes small blisters to form on your hands and feet. It is more common in women than men.
In dyshidrotic eczema:
Dyshidrotic eczema can be caused by:
Eczema that affects only your hands is called hand eczema. The possibility of getting this type of eczma is more if you work in a job like hairdressing or cleaning, where you regularly use chemicals that irritate the skin.
In hand eczema:
Hand eczema is triggered by exposure to chemicals. People who work in jobs that expose them to irritants are more likely to get this form, such as:
Neurodermatitis is similar to atopic dermatitis which causes thick, scaly patches to pop up on your skin.
Symptoms of neurodermatitis include:
Neurodermatitis usually occurs in people who have other types of eczema or psoriasis. The exact causes of this condition is unknown, although stress can be a trigger.
This type of eczema causes round, coin-shaped plaques of scaling skin most often on the lower legs of older individuals. The word nummular means coin in Latin. Nummular eczema looks very different from other types of eczema which can make it distinguishable from other types, and it can itch a lot.
Symptoms of nummular eczema include:
Nummular eczema can be triggered by a reaction to an insect bite, or by an allergic reaction to metals or chemicals. Dry skin can also cause it. People are more likely to get this form if they have another type of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis.
Stasis dermatitis occurs when fluid leaks out of weakened veins into your skin. This fluid causes swelling, redness, itching, and pain.
Symptoms of stasis dermatitis include:
Stasis dermatitis happens in people who have poor circulation in the veins of the legs. If the valves that normally push blood up through your legs toward your heart does not function properly, blood can pool in your legs. Your legs can swell up and varicose veins can form.
The skin will crack and ooze if dryness becomes excessive.
It produces a rash on the scalp, face, ears, and occasionally the mid-chest in adults. It can produce a weepy, oozy rash behind the ears in infants and can be quite extensive, involving the entire body.
This can produce a pattern identical to many other types of eczema. Fungal infections occur when an invading fungus takes over an area of the body and is too much for the immune system to handle. The fungus can be visualized and identified with a scraping under the microscope or grown in culture.
For all type of eczema, the most common symptom is itching. Since the appearance of most types of eczema is similar that is elevated plaques of red, bumpy skin, the location of the eczema can be helpful in distinguishing one type from another. For example, stasis dermatitis occurs most often on the lower leg while atopic dermatitis occurs in the front of the elbow and behind the knee.
If the itching and redness you are experiencing doesn't go away on its own, or if it interferes with your life and daily activities, do visit a skin doctor called a dermatologist who can diagnose and treat eczema. It may be helpful to keep a note to identify your eczema triggers to help your doctor understand your condition. The note should be about
You should try to notice and understand the connections between your activities and your eczema flare-ups which help your doctor to pinpoint your triggers.
A patch test can be done to find out the substances that trigger your eczema, so that you can avoid them . In this test a small amounts of irritating substances is placed on patches that are applied to your skin. The patches stay on your skin for 20 to 30 minutes to see if you have a reaction.
A sample of skin or biopsy may be sent for examination in a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. It is important to rule out curable conditions caused by infectious organisms. An examination of the entire skin surface and a health history is required for an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment options are different for different types of eczma. These include:
Repeated cycles of application of dilute solutions of vinegar or tap water in the form of a compress followed by evaporation is required where there is significant weeping and oozing. The affected body part will then be placed in front of a fan after the compress. Topical steroid such as triamcinolone cream applications can be an effective treatment once the acute weeping has diminished.
Cool compresses applied before you rub on the corticosteroid cream can help the medicine get into your skin more easily and therefore will be more effective.
Treatment of skin infections include antibiotics. Other medication used for reducing the symptoms of eczma include:
Mostly the patients of eczema do quite well under the care of a dermatologist after an accurate diagnosis. The flares may come and go. Atopic dermatitis is usually worst in childhood and improves with age. Other forms of eczema may stay with you throughout your life. However, you have treatment options to reduce your symptoms. When eczema can become infected by microorganisms, such a staphylococci or herpes simplex virus, the infection could be contagious and require antibiotics treatment. This happens when the normal barrier function of the skin has been damaged by the inflammatory condition. The development of fever and pustules, pain at the site of the rash are significant sign of this condition.
You should also avoid any known triggers to prevent eczema flare-ups.
Here are a few ways to prevent eczema flare-ups and manage symptoms: