Eczema, also known as dermatitis is a relatively common itchy skin condition that presents with red, bumpy, scaly skin that can blister or become crusted. It usually causes significant discomfort and distress due to severe itch. In children it can affect their sleep and development. There are a number of types and causes of eczema, but the treatments are often similar. Some of the more common types are listed below.
This is the common childhood form of eczema that has genetic links and may be associated with other atopic conditions such as asthma and hay fever. Commonly this type of eczema affects the skin creases of the elbows, behind the knees and eyelids, but may be much more extensive. Onset is commonly within the first 6 months of life and often children improve with age. Some however, continue to suffer throughout their adult life or even develop it for the first time later on.
Caused by excessive irritation to the skin, most commonly on the hands. Typically seen due to excessive “wet work”, such as in new mothers, or occupational causes including hairdressing, nursing and kitchen work.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Caused by direct contact of an allergen on the skin. Often a severe and unpredictable cause of eczema, although relatively rare. Causes include cosmetics and creams, including natural and plant based products, perfumes, rubbers and latex, jewellery, dressings, plants and many others. Onset can occur after many years of exposure to the same thing.
Venous stasis eczema
Tends to start on the legs, but may spread. Caused by underlying problems with the circulation or veins.
Unfortunately there is often no cure for eczema, but in most cases the eczema can be largely cleared and kept clear with and preventative measures. In some cases the underlying “cause” can be removed or altered.
Active eczema can be treated with a variety of topical anti-inflammatory (corticosteroid and steroid-sparing) preparations, and in more severe cases ultraviolet light treatment or oral therapy may be used. Secondary infection may also require treatment.
Ongoing prevention is vital to protect and “heal” the skin barrier, which is compromised. Avoidance or irritants and regular moisturiser aids treatment and reduces risk of flare-ups.