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Understanding Eczema: What Exactly Is Eczema?

If you have patches of dry skin which are aggravated by scratching, you may have eczema. This condition is also called “dermatitis” or “eczematous dermatitis” and may be present as either chronic (over a long period) or acute (intense and rapidly worsening or spreading). Tell-tale signs of eczema include red to pink papules and plaques that are thickened and scaly. You will often see them form on your arms and legs, especially behind your knees or at the front of your elbows.

Eczema: Causes and Risk Factors

There is no known single cause for your eczema, but there is a suspected connection with a defect in immune system functioning. Eczema is more common in children and infants than in adults but the condition can continue or become more severe as you age.
Your eczema may have been present from birth or it may have been triggered by psychological stress which has the effect of suppressing your immune functions. Contact eczema is possible if you have been exposed to harsh detergents, soaps, clothing or chemicals for eczema to be the result.

Eczema patches on your skin will frequently be itchy, but scratching them can lead to a superimposed infection (an infection which occurs on top of, or directly after, a prior infection) by creating breaks in your skin.

Types of Eczema You May Experience

Eczema can take on a number of forms including:

– Irritant Contact Dermatitis: This kind of eczema is caused by the handling of detergents and chemicals or by continued friction on sensitive parts of your body from clothing.

– Allergic Contact Dermatitis: You may experience this type of eczema if you have an allergic skin reaction to substances such as nickel, perfume or rubber.

– Nummular Dermatitis: If you have suffered a skin injury, you may be prone to this type of eczema, characterized by coin-shaped patches of irritation that will persist for several months.

Self-Treating Your Eczema

There are a number of ways to self-treat your eczema in order to keep it under control.

Be sure to keep your skin moisturized using creams or oil-based products and do so when your skin is already wet, for example after a shower or bath, to retain as much moisture as possible. As well, try to use non-soap based body cleansers on your skin and minimize your exposure to things such as heat, chemicals and smoke.

In addition, antihistamine tablets may be of use in controlling your eczema while you sleep, and a humidifier in the room can also help to keep irritated skin moist.

Medical Options for Eczema Treatment

If your eczema is extensive, your care provider may recommend treatments such as topical steroid creams, and if you have multiple patches of broken skin, a dilute bleach bath may be prescribed.

Your eczema may also be treated with light therapy or oral immune suppressants if it becomes severe and long-lasting or if it proves resistant to other forms of treatment.