What is eczema?
There are two main types of eczema, atopic and contact. Atopic eczema is usually found in folds of skin, such as arm pits, behind knee caps in on the joints of your arm. Atopic eczema is common in individuals who have either a personal or family history of hay fever or asthma as “atopy” often runs in families. The second type is called contact eczema and this most commonly occurs on the hands and feet.
Eczema affects the skin and is inflammatory, causing the skin to become dry, red, itchy and cracked which in turn can lead to further problems and discomfort. See the symptoms below for more information.
Eczema commonly affects young children at an early age but will often disappear within a year or so, or perhaps as the child reaches teenage years. It can also persist for a longer period of time and in some cases sufferers may not have any symptoms until they reach adulthood. In some cases, individuals develop eczema in later years.
For some however, the condition will be with them long-term, possibly for the duration of their life, and can lead to a lot of discomfort and frustration.
A study in 2009 suggested that cases of eczema were on the rise, increasing by some 40% in the previous four years. It is still not known what exactly causes eczema, nor is there an outright cure for the condition. Atopic eczema is often passed on through generations of a family and sufferers of atopic conditions will often have others in addition to eczema.
What are the symptoms of eczema/dermatitis?
The predominant symptom associated with eczema or dermatitis is itching, and the areas of skin affected will also become red, dry, flaky and often cracked. The itching may be limited to just one area of the body, such as an arm or hand, or it may be widespread on feet, legs, hands and other areas.
The symptoms will also differ from person-to-person in terms of severity, with some having only minor irritation from the itches and subsequent skin damage, while others will have particularly distressing and long-lasting symptoms. One of the issues with eczema is that the more the sufferer itches the affected area, the worse condition that the skin will then be in.
Eczema can be further complicated due to the deterioration of the affected areas of skin. If a sufferer itches a lot, skin can become cracked and open which can lead to infected eczema – which typically requires doctor prescribed treatment.
Non-medical treatment of eczema
In addition to purchasing specialist creams and seeing your GP, there are other steps that you can take to relieve symptoms of eczema. Additionally, it may be possible for you to identify things that trigger your eczema, in which case you can take preventative action.