Eczema And Dermatiti
This condition is caused by an allergy to certain substances that may touch the skin. If you are highly allergic, for example to poison ivy, the dermatitis develops within 48 hours after contact. The skin becomes red and itchy, even beyond the point of contact, and tiny blisters develop. These may join to form large blisters, which then break and crust over. If minute traces of chemicals from the plant are accidentally transferred from one part of the body to another, contact dermatitis may develop on the second part also.
Some forms of contact dermatitis are much less pronounced. For example, allergy to contact with nickel (on the underside of a wrist watch or earrings, for example), produces a red, flaky, itchy patch of skin, which may take weeks or even months to develop.
If an irritant remains in constant contact with your skin, the dermatitis will spread.
Seborrheic eczema: This type of eczema affects adults and young infants in different ways (for seborrheic eczema in infants,). In adults, the creases from the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth may become red, flaky and itchy. In men, this inflammation may extend to the beard area and the hairy parts of the chest and back. The condition may also affect other skin creases such as the groin, armpits, and under the breasts. If it is found in a fold of skin and is moist, it is also known as intertrigo. Seborrheic eczema in a mild form also causes dandruff .
The cause of seborrheic eczema is not known. It tends to run in families, and usually comes and goes over several years.
Housewife’s hand eczema: People who are constantly using dish washing liquids, detergents, household cleaners, and shampoos often damage the skin on their hands. The skin becomes dry, rough and reddened, particularly over the knuckles. It may thicken, crack, flake and itch. A similar type of eczema occurs among people whose hands are exposed to irritant chemicals on their jobs. Irritant eczema: The skin of an elderly person tends to be dry, particularly on the legs. This can lead to mild redness, flaking and irritation. If you take hot showers, you may get this type of eczema.
Dyshidrosis: In this type of eczema, itchy blisters erupt on the palms of the hands and the sales of the feet. Some of the blisters may burst and weep, and the surrounding areas may become inflamed and tender. Other blisters do not burst, but die down to form a flat brown spot under the skin. An attack of this type of eczema usually lasts two to four weeks and then clears up of its own accord, though attacks tend to recur. At its worst, this type of eczema can be incapacitating.
Discoid eczema: Discs of red, flaking, weeping, itching skin appear, most commonly on the arms and legs. The condition lasts for several months, then usually clears up on its own, permanently. Its cause is not known.
What should be done?
If you have housewife’s hand eczema, contact dermatitis of which you know the cause, or a mild form of any other eczema, try the self?help measures that follow. If they fail, or if your eczema is severe, see your physician.
What is the treatment?
Self-help: Eczema on the hand will improve if you wear rubber gloves over white cotton gloves when in contact with any irritants such as dish water. Dry your hands thoroughly after washing them, and apply an unscented hand cream several times a day.
If you avoid whatever is causing contact dermatitis, the condition should disappear within a few weeks. You may speed up the process by using a steroid cream that contains 0.5 per cent hydrocortisone. Such creams are available without a prescription.
Professional help: For any of the types of eczema described, your physician may prescribe a steroid cream or ointment of a different strength or substance. These preparations involve some slight risks.
Severe itching may be slightly relieved by antihistamine tablets. However, these cause drowsiness and impair driving ability, so your physician may advise you to take them only at bedtime. Eczema worsened by a bacterial infection may be treated with antibiotics.
If your physician suspects you have a contact dermatitis, he or she will discuss the possible causes with you. Then patch tests (applying suspected irritants to the skin) can be used to try to identify the specific cause.