Eczema is a non-contagious, inflammation of the skin and causes the skin to become dry flaky, itchy and red. It can occur at any age, though is more common in children whom sometimes grow out of it, and can affect any area of the body, especially where there are creases in the skin, such as by joints.
The severity of eczema can range from a small red patch on the skin, to a very nasty coverage that can become blistered and may even bleed. If the blisters are popped, they can become quite sore and weepy and crusts can form.
Causes of Eczema
The most common causes of eczema are an allergy, a developing sensitivity to products, a a side-effect of asthma or from a genetic disposition.
Product sensitivity is most common from chemicals, detergents and metals, particularly nickel.
Eczema is not a disorder that can be cured, however the symptoms can be treated and often controlled. Avoidance of perfumed and coloured skin cleansing agents is advisable, along with a change in washing power/detergent to a mild product.
Skin should be moisturised frequently with a thick and plain product. Avoid soap and use a bath preparation or emollient that can be purchased from the chemists.
If itching is a big problem, try moisturising the hands and applying cotton gloves at night to reduce the incidence of heavy scratching; this can be particularly useful with children if they will comply.
If these suggestions are not successful in reducing symptoms, your GP may suggest prescribing a steroidal preparation that will reduce inflammation and itching. Whilst offering good relief, steroids should not be used long-term due to their side-effects. An anti-histamine preparation can be bought from the pharmacy to help control itching, but it is important to read and follow the instruction rigorously. They may be best taken at night as they tend to cause some degree of drowsiness.
If blisters have formed and ruptured, there is a chance of them becoming infected leading to the need of anti-biotics that can be prescribed by the GP.
In cases of severe eczema, the GP may refer to a specialist called a dermatologist, who will determine the exact cause of the eczema and will suggest an appropriate treatment, which may include ultra-violet light therapy or the use of wet bandage wraps.
Prevention of Eczema
- Use soap substitutes for cleansing and a warm instead of hot bath to reduce the possibility of eczema developing or deteriorating.
- To try and prevent eczema, contact with harsh chemicals should be avoided, or gloves worn when handling products, such as during the production process, gardening or decorating for example.
- If the cause of sensitivity is known, always read the ingredients of chemically based products.
- Avoid using electric blankets and wear only cotton bed clothes to reduce the core temperature when sleeping. This will decrease night sweating and lower the chance of superficial eczema arising.
Eczema can affect anyone of any age and can be a very irritating occurrence. It is best treated as soon as possible to avoid it deteriorating and causing more problems, and preventative measures should be taken as eczema can reoccur very easily.