Eczema

While there are multiple forms of eczema, the most common form is atopic eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis). The condition is a very common one, often presenting in early childhood - but it can also appear, or recur later in life. Typically, eczema is considered to be a long-term issue, which means it’s a chronic condition.

Overview

Eczema generally presents as itchy, dry or cracked skin that’s often very sore. The condition may be worsened by environment, illness or stress, and patients with eczema may experience periods called ‘flare ups,’ brought on by these factors. Some people also find that their eczema may ‘go dormant’ during some periods of the year, and is influenced by seasonal changes, or temperature.

As a result of the chronic, painful and sometimes unpredictable nature of the condition, many patients find that it negatively impacts their quality of life and self-confidence – particularly as the stress of experiencing and managing eczema can trigger the onset of, or prolong the duration of, an outbreak.  Eczema affects one in five children, and often develops before their first birthday, however it is possible to develop eczema at any age, for a variety of reasons.

The condition is seen as likely to be influenced by genetics, so it is possible that if an individual’s parents have experienced problems with eczema, they may be more likely to have the same trouble. Dermatologists have also observed that patients with asthma, hay fever and other allergies can be more prone to developing the condition. All of these conditions are known collectively as the atopic conditions.

While eczema can be a painful and frustrating condition, it is possible that mild or infrequent outbreaks can resolve or ameliorate without further intervention, if careful attention is taken to reduce triggering factors and the use of regular moisturisers. However, patients who experience more frequent or severe outbreaks are likely to require medical attention. In such cases, specialist dermatological intervention is recommended to provide relief and to manage eczema.



The condition is a very common one, often presenting in early childhood - but it can also appear, or recur later in life. Typically, eczema is considered to be a long-term issue, which means it’s a chronic condition.



Symptoms of Eczema

Acne can appear anywhere on the body – except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, which do not have sebaceous glands - but the condition most commonly presents on the face, back, chest, shoulders or arms.

The symptoms of eczema are itchy, dry and cracked skin that can become very uncomfortable, and often sore. It can present anywhere on the body, but often appears on the hands, cheeks, chin, chest, or in areas where skin folds, like the elbows or behind the knees.

While in some individuals, eczema can present as small patches of dry skin, others with more serious forms of the condition may experience widespread pain and inflammation of the skin all over the body.

On lighter skin, inflammation from eczema can present as reddish in tone, and on darker skin, ‘patches’ of inflammation may appear as brown, purple or grey. As a result, many patients with darker skin tones may find the condition difficult to see – which can result in frustration and delays in obtaining a medical diagnosis.

While some aspects are common across each type – like dry, scaly skin, discolouration and itchiness, which may be intense – there are actually 7 different kinds of eczema.

Types of Eczema

While all types of eczema can cause distress, some may present more serious issues than others if left untreated, or if treated improperly. Scratching or otherwise interfering with eczema may cause infection or other complications, so it is important to seek medical advice if the condition persists or worsens.

Also known as atopic dermatitis – the most common form, which often presents in early childhood. The skin may appear to get ‘thicker;’ turn lighter or darker; and small bumps may appear, and they can ‘leak’ fluid as a result of scratching.
There are two forms of contact dermatitis; allergic contact dermatitis, which is a reaction of the immune system to an irritant (for example latex or metals); and irritant contact dermatitis, which is when the skin is irritated by a chemical or other substance. Itchy hives or fluid-filled blisters may present on the skin, which can become ‘leathery’ over time.
Also known as pompholyx – this is when fluid-filled blisters form on the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet, often brought on by allergy, chemical or material exposure, prolonged dampness, or stress.
This condition affects the hands only, and commonly presents in people who work with chemicals, like hairstylists or cleaners.
Also known as lichen simplex chronicus - similar to atopic dermatitis, the condition causes thick, scaly patches to present on the arms; legs; back of neck; scalp; soles of the feet; backs of the hands; or in the genital area. They are usually very itchy, and scratching the patches may cause bleeding.
Also known as discoid eczema – this condition looks very different to other forms of eczema, presenting in round, coinlike itchy patches that may appear ‘leathery.’
Also known as varicose eczema – this condition occurs when the fluid in weakened veins leak into the skin, causing swelling, redness, itching, and pain. Patients may notice swelling of the legs when walking around during the day; aching legs; and open sores on the legs and tops of the feet. Patients with stasis dermatitis are likely to have varicose veins, and the skin over their veins may be dry and itchy.
Also known as atopic dermatitis – the most common form, which often presents in early childhood. The skin may appear to get ‘thicker;’ turn lighter or darker; and small bumps may appear, and they can ‘leak’ fluid as a result of scratching.
There are two forms of contact dermatitis; allergic contact dermatitis, which is a reaction of the immune system to an irritant (for example latex or metals); and irritant contact dermatitis, which is when the skin is irritated by a chemical or other substance. Itchy hives or fluid-filled blisters may present on the skin, which can become ‘leathery’ over time.
Also known as pompholyx – this is when fluid-filled blisters form on the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet, often brought on by allergy, chemical or material exposure, prolonged dampness, or stress.
This condition affects the hands only, and commonly presents in people who work with chemicals, like hairstylists or cleaners.
Also known as lichen simplex chronicus - similar to atopic dermatitis, the condition causes thick, scaly patches to present on the arms; legs; back of neck; scalp; soles of the feet; backs of the hands; or in the genital area. They are usually very itchy, and scratching the patches may cause bleeding.
Also known as discoid eczema – this condition looks very different to other forms of eczema, presenting in round, coinlike itchy patches that may appear ‘leathery.’
Also known as varicose eczema – this condition occurs when the fluid in weakened veins leak into the skin, causing swelling, redness, itching, and pain. Patients may notice swelling of the legs when walking around during the day; aching legs; and open sores on the legs and tops of the feet. Patients with stasis dermatitis are likely to have varicose veins, and the skin over their veins may be dry and itchy.

Causes of Eczema

Some eczema is caused by allergies, or contact with chemicals and certain metals, but there may be other causes – for example, genetic predisposition; problems with the immune system function; environmental factors; infections; skin dryness; or stress.

Research has shown that patients may have a genetic tendency to suffer from the ‘atopic triad,’ these allergic conditions are allergic rhinitis (hayfever), asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema). They often run together and in families.

Different types of of eczema may have specific causes.

The most common allergenic substances known to irritate the skin are detergents; cosmetic products; soaps and perfumes; jewellery; nickel; latex; paint; poisonous plants; solvents and tobacco smoke.
Prolonged exposure to dampness or substances like metals, can cause an outbreak, as can periods of stress
The condition often presents when there are co-occurring skin conditions, for example, other forms of eczema, or psoriasis.
This can result from an insect bite, or allergies.
This condition occurs in people who have problems with blood-flow to their lower legs. If the valves that push blood around the body malfunction, it can cause the blood to pool in the legs, making them swell and forming varicose veins.

Treatment of Eczema at Derma

Whilst there is no cure for eczema, in many cases it can be controlled using moisturisers and intermittent use of topical steroids. If symptoms recur and remain uncomfortable, patients should consult a dermatology expert for treatment.

What to Expect

Your appointment to assess and treat eczema will begin with a skin check and medical history, followed by a discussion on the recommended treatment options.

Your dermatologist will explain the potential limitations and side-effects of each treatment.

Due to the specialised nature of dermatology, and our significant experience in treating eczema, our experts are likely to be able to prescribe treatments more effective than those prescribed by GPs.

These specialist dermatological treatments can more quickly and effectively control and manage eczema, eliminating all the symptoms so that there is no more discomfort. In many cases, this level of comfort can then be maintained.

For more delicate areas, or for prolonged treatment, Derma is able to offer alternatives to steroid treatments – such as light treatment (also known as phototherapy); and for more severe eczema cases, it may be possible to prescribe tablets that help to better regulate the immune system.

Whatever your needs, you can rest assured that Derma will provide the very best care for your skin, with access to the latest research and treatments.

For more information, or to book an appointment with Derma, please call the clinic or contact us via email here.

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