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What is Eczema?

By K. Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Eczema is a skin condition that is suffered by 10 to 20% of the world's population. The red, itchy, and flaky skin that appears on people with this condition is a result of the skin's inflammatory response to physical or environmental irritants. Anybody can get eczema, although those with a family history will have a greater predisposition of developing the disease. There is currently no cure for this condition, although there are treatments that may help to alleviate the itchy symptoms.

Normally, skin acts as a barrier to protect individuals against disease and infection. This protection is compromised when oversensitivity to external irritants, known as triggers, cause a negative immune response, resulting in an eczema reaction. Eczema is caused by triggers to environmental and physical irritants. Patches of skin get flaky, itchy, and red. Sometimes, these patches ooze liquid. When the skin heals, it thickens and can radiate a leathery appearance at spots where the reaction occurs. This process is known as lichenification. Allergic reactions to fruit, meat, animal dander, dust, soaps, and viruses can trigger an episode of eczema. Environmental triggers, such as stress, can cause also preclude a reaction.

This skin condition can appear in infants, children, and adults, on any part of the body. Infants manifest this condition on their foreheads, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck. In children and adults, the itchy red patches can appear on the face, neck, inside of the elbows, knees, and the ankles. Eczema can appear in infancy and end between the ages of 5 to 15, but it can also be a life-long condition, recurring on and off at intervals for the rest of a person's life.

Eczema comes in several forms, depending on the nature and form of the irritant. Atopic dermatitis, the most common type, occurs when and individual has a hypersensitive reaction to an allergen resulting in a chronic, itchy skin condition. A person suffering from atopic dermatitis is more likely to develop food allergies, hay fever, and asthma. Occupational eczema occurs when an individual has an allergic reaction to job-related environmental substances that triggers a reaction. Another form is nummular eczema. This type is characterized by coin-shaped splotches on the skin. Nummular eczema is made worse when individuals wear tight clothing that irritates the skin, and may be exacerbated by certain soaps and detergents used in laundry.

There are no known cures for eczema, but the disease can be treated. Modifying lifestyles to minimize any exposure to possible triggers is the most effective treatment. First and foremost, continually moisturizing skin can help prevent an eczema reaction. Use lotions and creams immediately after a bath. This helps moisturize skin by trapping natural oils within the skin's surface, serving as a self-hydrating agent.

Furthermore, sufferers of eczema should avoid excessive sweating and overheating. Avoiding environmental triggers, such as changes in the humidity or temperature, can help reduce the excessive sweating that leads to disease manifestation. If the patch of skin is itching badly, a cold compress can help reduce the inflammation and lessen the itchiness.

Short fingernails prevent the urge to scratch and break skin, endangering the body to other infections. Loose-fitting clothes should be worn to prevent irritation, which may lead to itching. New clothes should be washed in mild soap before wearing. Since stress also serves as a trigger, an individual who suffers from eczema would be well advised to reduce stress. Persons with severe flare-ups should seek the help of a dermatologist.

If the lifestyle modifications do not provide any relief, medical relief may be necessary. Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation. Antibiotics can be used if the skin becomes infected as a result scratching. Antihistamines can be used to lessen the itch in the evening so a person can sleep. Cyclosporine A can be used in extreme cases, but the side effects associated with it make it a last resort.

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Discussion Comments
By anon346534 — On Aug 29, 2013

Biosynol Cream for Eczema is high in aloe vera content, will soothe dry skin and help keep it moisturized.

By Triumph777 — On Apr 07, 2013

Some of my friends have been using a skin cream called Formula II which they say is excellent for treating eczema. I checked out their website and they have a ton of positive testimonials from customers and medical professionals who used it for all types of severe dry skin conditions including eczema.

Good luck! I know how tough it is for my friends to live with eczema. So I hope this cream helps you all as it has for them.

By anon159698 — On Mar 13, 2011

I've had eczema pretty much my whole life. I guess you have to use steroid creams if it's really serious, but try to avoid it because it really thins your skin - my skin is really thin, and gets cut/bruises easily.

My eczema has gotten a lot better, now pretty much just scars left, unless i get an allergy. This has been since I moved to Australia. I used to live in a tropical and humid country.

I also suggest going for an allergy test to determine what exactly you are allergic to and avoid it. I never did a proper one till a few years ago. That's when I realized I was very, very allergic to dust mites.

By anon146359 — On Jan 26, 2011

I have eczema and i got patches on my neck and people are always trying to say my neck is dirty and I didn't know what it was until my mom told me i had eczema.

By anon129356 — On Nov 23, 2010

my sister has had eczema ever since she was born and it just won't go away. now that she's 17 it's harder because people have made fun of her her entire life, saying that she had herpes which wasn't true. but now she goes to light therapy which helps the skin and hopefully easier. when you put on cream it goes away faster.

By anon124727 — On Nov 07, 2010

I just got eczema three days ago and my doctor said taking steroid cream would help. But can steroid cream get rid of eczema?

By alex94 — On Jul 07, 2010

I have a friend who has eczema and she said that her doctor told her to use honey. She puts raw honey over whatever part of the skin is infected and leaves it on for about 20 minutes. Then rinse with water. She said it works really well.

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 07, 2010

@anon23204:There are ways to cover up eczema but you need to try to treat and prevent flare-ups first. You can use corticosteroids, good moisturizers and try to stay away from scented detergents and soaps.

When using makeup to cover eczema, always use makeup that is made from all natural ingredients. Do not use makeup that contains lanolin either. Mineral makeup is a good choice. Applying too much makeup or applying heavyweight makeup can cause clumps on your skin. Do not apply more than one layer. Instead, try using a light green makeup concealer to cover up red, splotchy skin. Then use a lightweight foundation on top of that.

By anon23204 — On Dec 18, 2008

what are some of the medicines, creams, herbs, lotions and herbs that can prevent the showing of the rash ( eczema)?

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