What is Eczema?
National Eczema week provides the perfect platform for understanding and getting to grips with eczema: a condition that affects an estimated 5.7 million adults and children in the United Kingdom. Eczema and dermatitis are effectively the same condition but with different names: It is a condition which is characterised by a combination of redness, swelling and itching. When the condition is extremely acute, this can cause thickening and scaling of the skin, and even darkening of the skin, as a result of regularly rubbing the affected area through itching and scratching it. Eczema sufferers are advised not to scratch their sore and affected areas, but of course this is easier said than done, particularly in children who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. For sufferers of the condition, the effects of eczema can be truly unbearable, and although it is a common disorder that doesn’t mean that it is one which is always easy to manage.
What are the causes of Eczema?
There are a wide variety of different causes of eczema, and the cause of your condition is likely to affect the way in which it can be treated:
Atopic eczema: This is the type of eczema most commonly experienced by children. It generally occurs alongside other allergic conditions such as asthma and hay fever, and is generally considered to be relatively easy to control.
Allergic contact dermatitis: If you find that your eczema is particularly aggravated when you use certain things on your skin (such as a particular perfume, hair dye, or other fragrance) then it could be that you have eczema that is caused by an allergic reaction. Your doctor will generally be able to determine if you have this condition by giving you a simple patch test.
Irritant contact eczema: This kind of eczema is very similar to allergic contact dermatitis, and can look very similar. However this condition is caused by a chemical irritating the skin: the most common causes of this condition are soap, disinfectants, or washing powders and detergents.
Asteototic eczema: This kind of eczema is most common amongst the aging community, as it is generally characterised by the kind of dry and cracked skin that occurs as the skin ages. This eczema type characterises why it is so important to take care of aging skin.
Drug-induced eczema: If you have never suffered from eczema before, you may find that you develop the condition when you start taking any new form of medication. This drug-induced eczema could resemble any of the types mentioned above, but is likely to only last as long as the medication you are taking.
Pompholyx/Dishydrotic eczema: This is a relatively rare type of eczema that is caused by tiny blisters (or vesicles) that appear under the skin. Typically this kind of eczema only occurs on the hands and feet, and can be very itchy and uncomfortable.
Other key terms to be aware of:
Lichen simplex chronicus: a thickened and itchy area of skin that can be experienced during all types of eczema and is caused by repeated rubbing and scratching.
Nodular prurigo: This condition is similar to lichen simplex, and is also caused by eczema. It appears in the form of multiple small itchy areas of thickened inflamed skin.