Ever had an insect bite? If so, you must have experienced an itchy, red patch on your skin, making it sensitive. That’s a kind of eczema – a common condition that affects many people.
Eczema refers to conditions that make the skin red, itchy and inflamed. It may affect the neck, or where the skin folds like inner elbows and behind your knees. The skin becomes cracked and rough, accompanied by blisters that could ooze. It is common in a hot country like India but affects people all over the world. It is irritating as the sufferer feels like scratching the skin all the time. Eczema can affect anyone, including children and infants. The condition is known as “cradle cap” and is usually cured after some time. However, it is not serious and can be treated, so see a doctor or a skin specialist if notice the symptoms.
This the most common type of eczema is Atopic dermatitis. The skin reacts to an invasion and the immune system reacts making it inflamed. Another form is Seborrheic dermatitis, commonly seen as dandruff, and skin rash, redness, itchiness, and inflammation. This type of eczema affects the face, scalp and the chest.
The looks and symptoms of eczema may vary from person to person. A common symptom is continuous itch, which may be mild or high. In extreme cases it makes the skin highly inflamed and causes severe itch, and the skin starts bleeding when scratched repeatedly. Scratching actually makes the eczema conditions worse, in what is known as the “itch-scratch cycle,” hence scratching should be avoided. Symptoms include dryness and itching of the scalp, scaling and oozing.
Doctors look for common symptoms like dry, sensitive and inflamed skin with red patches and bad itching. In some cases the skin becomes dark, rough and leathery with scaly patches. Swelling, oozing and crusting may also occur. There are times where the symptoms flare up, followed by periods of time in which the symptoms improve or even vanish. Since the condition is curable, it is important to see a doctor if symptoms persist.
The exact causes of eczema are not known. Patients have to observe themselves what triggers the symptoms in them. People get eczema symptoms when exposed to certain metals, cigarette smoke, perfumes and cosmetics, pollens, chemicals, and personal care products. Genetic factors may be responsible for making certain people more prone to eczema than others. We have a gene inside our body that creates filaggrin, a protein forms a protective barrier on the skin. This gene when mutated may restrict growth of filaggrin, exposing it to bacteria and viruses. This skin becomes dry, itchy and infection-prone.
Usually the body’s immune system becomes over-reactive and responds to some substances by producing inflammation. It is an allergic condition that causes the skin to become red and itchy. People have to avoid things that cause the symptoms in them. It is more commonly seen in winter as cold weather tends to dry the skin.
Treatment consists of identifying the triggers that cause eczema symptoms. You may do this on your own, or with the help of your doctor or psychologist. Learn to avoid the substances that cause allergies and eczema symptoms. The condition is best avoided by following a regular bathing and moisturizing routine. Patients can use easily available OTC creams and lotions. If the condition is severe one must seek medical advice. Infections have to be treated with antibiotics.
Patients are advised not to scratch and rub the skin. They should dress in soft clothing and avoid fabrics that cause itch. Preventive measures are the best treatment for this condition.
Take care of your skin to avoid problems. Use a moisturiser regularly, especially in winters, so that your skin does not become dry. Many medications are available and one can try self medication but it the symptoms persist, seek the help of a doctor.
Some common sense tips are to avoid bathing in very hot water, and applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing. Use a moisturizer every day without fail. Wear soft cotton fabrics, and avoid rough and tight-fitting clothing. Always use a mild soap with natural ingredients. Do not rub your body but let it to air dry. Keep fingernails short so that you do not scratch yourself and make the condition worse.