The term Dermatitis is used to describe a number of skin irritations and rashes characterised by inflammation of the skin.
There are many different skin conditions that can cause dermatitis, and the severity of the symptom can range from mild to severe. Dermatitis is not contagious, and it does not mean that your skin is unclean. In this article we will be looking at atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Atopic Dermatitis is commonly referred to as eczema, is a common skin condition causing itchy, dry, and scaly skin. This ongoing form of dermatitis typically begins in childhood, and flare-ups may continue into adulthood. In this article we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for eczema.
What Causes Eczema?
There is not a single cause for eczema.
Typically, there is a family history of eczema, asthma and hay-fever in people with the condition.
People with eczema tend to have dry itchy skin that is more vulnerable to the entry of irritants, allergens, and therefore more prone to the development of rashes.
What Triggers Eczema Flare-ups?
Eczema can be triggered or made worse by a range of possible causes.
Here are some common lifestyle and environmental triggers:
- extended hot showers or baths
- hotter or colder weather
- high or low humidity
- allergens (pollen, dander, dust, pet fur)
- wool and synthetic fabrics
- chemical irritants (soap, detergents, and cleaners)
- scratching and skin infections
- strenuous physical activity (becoming hot and sweating)
- food allergens can cause irritation or a delayed flare up.
Symptoms of Eczema
The symptoms of eczema can vary significantly depending on a range of factors including what has caused the flare up, skin tone, and severity.
Common symptoms may include:
- dry, cracked, flaky skin
- intense itchiness
- discoloured rashes (red, brown, purple, or grey)
- small, raised bumps and blisters
- weeping, or oozing due to scratching
- crusts or scabs
- skin thickening due to scratching.
How can Eczema be Treated?
While there is no cure for eczema, it can be managed at home and over time will often improve.
The majority of babies and children with eczema will ‘grow out’ of the condition.
The symptoms of eczema can be controlled with appropriate treatment and self-care:
- avoid irritants, allergens and other triggers
- clean your skin in lukewarm water, and with soap-free washes
- moisturise at least twice daily
- steroid creams and ointments like hydrocortisone 1% can be used following pharmacist advice to treat redness, swelling, itching, and discomfort.
Repeated scratching of skin can create sores that allow bacteria, viruses, and fungi to enter the skin and cause an infection.
It can be identified by:
- white or yellow pus and/or pimples
- fluid drainage or weeping
- burning sensation
- painful to touch
- blisters and sores
A severe infection may cause fever and chills. If you believe you have infected eczema you will require treatment with an anti-biotic and should see your healthcare professional.
Contact and Seborrhoeic Dermatitis
Contact and Seborrheic dermatitis are the two other common types of dermatitis.
Contact Dermatitis is an adverse reaction caused by skin contact with an allergen or irritant.
Common irritants can include detergents, soap, solvents, and bleach which can cause a painful rash. Allergic contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to something causing an itchy rash.
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a type of dermatitis that’s most common on the scalp and face.
It is caused by a yeast or fungus. The common symptoms are itchy scaly patches, and flakes of skin that come loose when scratched (dandruff).
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