Eczema (sometimes referred to as dermatitis) is a skin condition that can affect both males and females and sufferers can range from the very young to the elderly. Approximately one fifth of all children suffer from eczema as well as one in every twelve adults.
Eczema can be mild, moderate or severe. In the mildest case the skin is red, warm, dry and itchy. In moderate to severe cases it can be very inflamed, incredibly itchy, cracked, crusty, scaly, raw, bleeding and weeping fluid (known as wet eczema).
Eczema is not caused by any one thing. The causes are many and it is not the same for all individuals. There are allergenic forms of eczema and non-allergenic forms. The most widespread form of eczema is atopic eczema and this type is believed to have a hereditary condition and to be connected with sensitivity to allergens that dont bother people in the general population.
Plenty of people with atopic dermatitis also suffer from other allergy related problems such as hay fever and asthma. Other types of eczema are believed to be connected to irritants such as harsh detergents, chemicals, dust, sand, cigarette smoke, scratchy natural material such as wool, nickel, etc.
There are a number of types of eczema. There is atopic eczema (the most common type), allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, infantile seborrhoeic eczema (cradle cap), adult seborrhoeic eczema (such as dandruff that can spread to other areas of the body, most commonly seen in adults between the age of twenty and forty), varicose eczema (found in elderly people) and discoid eczema (tends to appear in middle age).
It is necessary to visit your doctor in order for him or her to come up with a proper diagnosis of your condition. This might you to have to undergo a series of tests.
Presently there is no cure for eczema. Instead the focus is on finding ways to manage or control how often the eczema flares up.
There are a variety of ways that eczema can be kept under control. Your doctor will help you determine based on the severity of your condition which type of treatment is best for you. Currently the treatment options include emollients to help lock in moisture to the skin, topical steroid creams, oral steroids (these are not the kind that athletes take), topical immunomodulators, antihistamines, ultraviolet light treatment and a variety of alternative health therapies such as allergy testing, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), chiropractic and homeopathy.
photo of hand eczema by Nat Miller / CreativeCommons