Things to Know About Eczema

Things To Know About Eczema


Eczema is a very common skin condition that causes dry, itchy, red (inflamed), and irritated skin. It is not a contagious disease. Eczema usually begins at early childhood; however, it can occur at any age. It is a long-lasting disease with no definite treatment. Yet, with regular skincare habits such as moisturization and available treatments, the symptoms can be managed.

Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema can appear on any part of the body, which varies from person to person. The part of the body affected depend on the type of eczema. Symptoms also differ by age, based on when they appear – infancy, childhood, or in adulthood.

Types of Eczema – Associated Symptoms & Causes

Your healthcare provider will evaluate your symptoms and determine the type of the eczema. This is useful in planning future treatments to help contain and soothe your irritated skin.

Type of Eczema Symptom Cause

Atopic Dermatitis:

  • Most common form of eczema.
  • Long-lasting condition that often begins in infancy.
  • People with this form of eczema experience fewer symptoms, and they may flare-up as they grow.

Immune system is easily triggered, which leads to skin inflammation, over time results in:

  • Itch, dry skin
  • Red rash
  • Oozing, or crusty skin
  • Infection-prone skin
  • May experience asthma, allergies, depression, ADHD

Triggers include:

  • Household detergents, cleaning chemicals, shampoos, or soaps
  • Mold, pet dander, dust mites, or tree pollen
  • Food allergies
  • Wool, polyester, or nylon
  • Stress
  • Sudden changes in hormones

Dyshidrotic Eczema:

  • Affects fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet.
  • Condition is common in women.
  • Itchy, scaly skin
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Cracking skin
  • Painful skin

Exact causes are unknown. Trigger/ risk factors include:

  • Exposure to hot temperatures or high humidity
  • Exposure to metals like nickel or cobalt
  • Stress

Contact Dermatitis: Caused by contact to something that irritates or triggers allergic reaction.

  • Red skin
  • Painful, swollen or tender skin
  • Blisters
  • Itchy skin (mild to severe)

Skin irritant triggers include:

  • Harsh soaps and detergents
  • Hair dyes
  • Nickel or cobalt
  • Makeup
  • Wool

Discoid Eczema:

  • Also known as nummular or discoid dermatitis
  • Common on the lower part of the legs
  • Small round, oval, or coin-shaped patches of red skin
  • Severely itchy scaly patches
  • Patches that ooze fluid or crust over
  • Very dry or sensitive skin
  • Frequent bathing
  • Insect bites
  • Harsh soaps, detergents, fabric softeners

Neurodermatitis: Unlike other forms of eczema, neurodermatitis does not appear in multiple areas across the body, but stays limited to one or two areas of affected skin.

  • Chronic itch
  • Scaly skin
  • Discolored skin
  • Hair loss

Exact cause is unknown; some individuals are more prone than others:

  • People between ages 30-50 years old
  • Women
  • People with other forms of eczema, or psoriasis
  • People with poor blood flow, dehydrated skin
  • People with depression
  • People of African and Asian decent

Seborrheic Dermatitis:

  • It occurs in the oil-producing areas of the skin, including your scalp, nose, and upper back.
  • In infants, this condition is known as cradle cap.
  • Flaky, dry skin on oil-producing areas
  • Greasy skin covered in white or yellow scales
  • Red, itchy skin

People who have certain ailments and habits are likely to develop this form of eczema.

These include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Heart attack
  • HIV
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Stroke
  • People prone to acne
  • Alcoholism

Stasis Dermatitis:

  • Occurs in people who have poor blood flow issues in their legs.
  • Occurs commonly in women than men.

In people, symptoms often worsen with decline in blood circulation. Early symptoms include small spots of discoloration, however as the condition worsens, the following are observed:

  • Extreme ache in the legs
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Large ulcers that bleed or ooze fluid

Major cause is poor blood flow. Other risk factors that contribute include:

  • Blood clot
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure
  • Obesity
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • History of leg injury
  • Varicose veins

Eczema Diagnosis & Treatment

After thorough examination of your skin, your healthcare provider will classify the type of eczema. To further confirm it, they may perform the following tests:

  • A skin biopsy to distinguish eczema from other conditions that can resemble eczema
  • Blood test to check for causes of the rash that may be unrelated to dermatitis
  • Allergy skin test

Treatment includes medications and therapies, these may not provide permanent relief.

  1. Medications are given specific to skin condition and rash condition. These include the following categories:
    • Medicated products applied to the skin: creams, gels and ointments.
    • Drugs to fight infection: Antibiotic pills.
    • Medicines that control inflammation: To help manage symptoms.
    • Other options for severe eczema: Injectables.
  2. Therapies aid in treating intensive eczema conditions and improving mental health.
    • Wet dressings: To treat severe eczema by ointment dressing
    • Light therapy: To treat people who don’t show improvement after topical treatments. Phototherapy is used in this therapy – Ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B lights with or without drugs.
    • Counselling: Any discomfort, or frustration can be shared with your therapist.

Prevention for Eczema

Prevent flares of symptoms by doing the following:

  • Moisturize your skin
  • Identify and avoid possible triggers
  • Protect your skin, especially when the weather is cold and dry
  • Don't use harsh soaps, detergents, or solvents
  • Avoid fabric materials like wool
  • Avoid scratching or rubbing itchy areas of skin
  • Manage stress, and take time for yourself to relax by regular including a physical exercise, meditation or yoga
  • Exclude foods that could flare-up eczema from your diet (E.g. groundnuts, dairy, eggs, sugar, alcohol and gluten)

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods help clear up eczema?

Vegetables and fruits that are high in inflammation-fighting flavonoids: Apples, broccoli, cherries, blueberries, spinach, and kale. Flavonoids have been found to improve the overall health of a person's skin and help fight problems such as inflammation (which is associated with eczema).

What’s the difference between dermatitis and psoriasis?

Psoriasis and dermatitis can appear similar. Both cause red skin patches. However, in psoriasis the scales are thick and the edges of these scales are well defined. Sometimes, more than one skin condition can co-exist, therefore, it is important to get yourself examined when the symptoms start to show up.

What is the most common trigger for eczema?

Irritants are the most triggers for eczema. These include – soaps and detergents, including shampoo, washing-up liquid and bubble bath. Environmental factors that could cause allergic reaction are – cold and dry weather, dampness, and certain things such as house dust mites, pet fur, pollen and moulds.

Can one get sepsis from eczema?

Infected eczema can lead to more dangerous complications if left untreated. For instance, a staphylococcus infection may cause sepsis, a life-threatening type of blood infection. In addition, severe eczema herpeticum (a viral infection) can also cause infection of the cornea of the eye, leading to blindness.

What are the possible complications that could occur from eczema?

Eczema causes changes to your skin, and thus increases your chances of being prone to infections. Common complications include:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Cellulitis
  • Viral infections

The Department of Dermatology at Gleneagles Global Health City offers comprehensive, state-of-the-art diagnosis, and treatment. Book an appointment now with one of the best dermatologists in Chennai.

Dr Nidhi Singh
Dr Nidhi Singh
M.B.B.S, M.D.
Senior Consultant
Department of Dermatology

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