Eczema is a term for several different types of skin swelling. Eczema is also called dermatitis. It is not dangerous, but most types cause red, swollen and itchy skin. Factors that can cause eczema include other diseases, irritating substances, allergies and your genetic makeup. Eczema is not contagious.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of eczema can vary widely during the early phases. Between 2 and 6 months of age (and almost always before the age of 5 years), children with eczema usually develop itchy, dry, red skin and small bumps on their cheeks, forehead, or scalp.
While any region of the body may be affected by eczema, in children and adults, eczema typically occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles. In infants, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck.
Contact eczema usually affects adults. It’s caused by contact with an allergen, such as nickel, or substances that irritate the skin, such as detergents, soaps and perfumes.
Contact with the external trigger (allergen) causes the skin to become inflamed. The duration of the contact is not important. Eczema can develop on first contact (in days to weeks) or over time with repeated contact (in months to years).
Genetic defect in the epidermal barrier that makes the skin susceptible to breakdown by irritants such as detergents and dust mites. which may allow increased penetration of antigens.
Triggers for eczema can include skin irritants, such as chemicals, emotional stress, allergies, for example, to food and airborne allergens; and extreme changes in temperature. Paint thinners and pesticides, alcohol-containing products, astringents, and fragrances are chemicals that can trigger eczema in some individuals. Although paint thinners and pesticides can be avoided fairly easily, it is harder to avoid alcohol, astringents, and fragrances, which are ingredients in most cosmetics and household cleaners.
Diagnosis of Eczema
Eczema diagnosis is generally based on the appearance of inflamed, itchy skin in eczema sensitive areas such as face, chest and other skin crease areas. For evaluation of the eczema, a scoring system can be used (for example, SCORAD, a scoring system for atopic dermatitis).
Given the many possible reasons for eczema flare-ups, a doctor is likely to ascertain a number of other things before making a judgment:
An insight to family history
Treatment of Eczema
Moisturizers help keep your skin soft and flexible. They prevent skin cracks. A plain moisturizer is best. Avoid moisturizers with fragrances (perfume) and a lot of extra ingredients. A good, cheap moisturizer is plain petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). Use moisturizers that are more greasy than creamy, because creams usually have more preservatives in them.
Oral medications (by mouth) are sometimes helpful.
In rare cases, a doctor might recommend ultraviolet light treatments (putting skin under special lights).
Discourage your child from scratching her skin.
Dry skin often makes the condition worse. When washing or bathing, keep water contact as brief as possible and use less soap than usual. After bathing, it is important to trap the moisture in the skin by applying lubricating cream on the skin while it is damp.