What causes eczema?
One of the most common theories is that it is a malfunction in the immune system which causes the skin to react abnormally to certain substances like perfumes, cleaning agents, plants or food. If your skin’s protective barrier is compromised it can affect the development, duration and severity of the eczema, as can genetic and environmental factors.
What types of eczema are there?
Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis)
The most common form of eczema tends to cause patches of dry skin that can become very itchy, red, and inflamed and are susceptible to infection. This type of eczema often occurs in people who already suffer from allergies.
Allergic (contact) eczema
Occurs when a person's immune system has become over sensitive from coming into contact with a specific substance which causes an allergic reaction and irritation.
Eyelid and lip eczema
A type of contact eczema that appears around the eyelids and lips causing moderate redness with flaky, itchy and swollen skin. It mainly occurs from the use of certain cosmetic or oral hygiene products.
Is a common form of eczema often caused by a weakened immune system, usually affecting the scalp, though it can affect other parts of the body as well. It can cause a variety of symptoms from dandruff to a red and flaky rash on the affected area.
Most frequently occurs in teenage girls or older women (aged 50+) and is often found on the legs and characterized by coin-shaped pink or red blotches. Causes often include over-sensitization or damage to the skin.
How do you treat eczema?
While there is no single cure for this condition yet, understanding what type of eczema you have can be the first step in learning how best to help alleviate its symptoms. Fortunately, eczema is not contagious, which means that a person cannot catch it or pass it onto another person.
Use topical steroids
The most specific and effective medication is a cortisone cream, prescribed by your doctor or dermatologist.
Use oral steroids
If topical steroids do not help, then oral steroids can be prescribed. Due to possible severe side effects, these can only be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Under medical supervision, UVA or UVB light therapy can help to reduce the symptoms of severe, chronic eczema.
SOURCES: Dermatologic Therapy, September 2004, p. 264; Paediatrics, January 2006, pp. 118-128; Current Medical Research and Opinion, November 2005, pp. 1735-1739; British Journal of Community Nursing, October 2005, pp. 453-456; Homeopathy, October 2005, pp. 215-221; Paediatric Allergy and Immunology, September 2005, June 2005, pp. 203-213; Journal of Dermatology, May 2005, pp. 346-353; British Journal of Dermatology, June 2005, pp. 1193-1198; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, May-June 2005, pp. 103-114; Archives of Dermatology, December 2004, pp. 1463-1466.