You must have been itching for an hour but there is still no relief from the burning sensation. The redness, itching and inflammation must be bothering you? I know the answer is yes. You must be wondering why the skin is becoming so dry, flaky and sensitive all of a sudden. No more guessing, you are suffering from eczema, this skin ailment needs immediate attention and treatment.

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Causes of Eczema

The word eczema comes from the Greek word ‘ekzein’ which means “to boil out”.  Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. Eczema is an inflammation that affects mainly the epidermis and it is marked by redness, itching, minute papules, vesicles, weeping, oozing, crusting, scaling, lichenification and pigmentation.

If you want to find the right cure for eczema you first need to know the reasons behind it. Here are some environmental factors that trigger eczema-

  • Irritants: Soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, and juices from fresh fruits, vegetables and meats can cause eczema.
  • Allergens: Dust, mites, pets, pollens, mould and dandruff can cause severe itching and redness.
  • Microbes: Bacteria such as Staphylococcus Aureus, virus and fungus can also trigger eczema.
  • Hot and Cold Temperatures: Extreme temperatures coupled with high and low humidity can cause perspiration. Excess sweating leads to skin irritation like eczema.
  • Foods: Some foods like dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy products cause skin allergies like rashes and itching in many people.
  • Stress: Stress does not cause eczema directly but it can complicate the situation by making the symptoms worse.
  • Hormones: Women are more susceptible to eczema then men because they undergo frequent hormonal changes. These hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and menstrual cycles can lead to eczema.

Children are more likely to develop eczema if a parent suffers from eczema or any other atopic disease. If both parents suffer from atopic disease then the chances of eczema becomes higher. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) report that those children who develop atopic dermatitis become prone to other atopic diseases.

Atopic dermatitis is not contagious. The inflammation results from too many reactive inflammatory cells in the skin. Research is still on to find out why these cells over-react. Some people are just born with these over reactive cells and when something triggers these cells, they still keep reacting. So these trigger factors need to be identified to prevent atopic dermatitis.

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Eczema can appear on face, neck, hands, feet, knees and chest. There are different types of eczema. Preventing and treating eczema becomes easier when you know which type of eczema you are suffering. This article is about atopic dermatitis (‘atopic’ refers to a collection of diseases that a person usually inherits like asthma, hay fever and dermatitis. Dermatitis means skin inflammation).Other variants of eczema includes

  • Allergic Contact Eczema (Dermatitis) – A reaction happens when the skin comes into contact with a substance that the immune system identifies as foreign.
  • Contact Eczema: A localized reaction when the skin comes into contact with an allergen.
  • Dyshidriotic Eczema: Irritation of the skin on palms of the hand and soles of the feet. The skin in the affected areas looks like blisters.
  • Neurodermatitis: Scaly patches of skin on head, forearms, wrists, lower legs caused due to insect bite and other factors.
  • Nummular Eczema: Circular patches of irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly and itchy.
  • Seborrheic Eczema: These are oily, scaly yellowish patches of skin that are usually found on face and skin.
  • Statis Dermatitis: This type of inflammation happens in lower legs mainly due to circulation problems.

 

Common Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema is usually common among infants; they have dry scaly patches that are extremely itchy. Most people have eczema before they turn five; those who develop eczema during childhood suffer from the symptoms even when they become adults. The symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary depending on the person’s age. Sometimes, the symptoms flare up causing severe itching and other times the symptoms slightly clears up.

Eczema is always itchy, sometimes itching starts even before the rash appears. In fair-skinned people the rash first appears red and then turns brown. Among dark-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation making the affected areas lighter or darker.  In Infants, eczema can cause oozing and crusting that mainly appears on the face and scalp, but patches can appear anywhere. Eczema in babies can be severe and is often confused with cradle cap; http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby-eczema-questions-answers will be a perfect guide for new moms to tackle this skin condition better.

Diagnosis is based on patient’s symptoms but medical history is also important. A doctor will often ask about a patient’s family history, other atopic disease like asthma and hay fever, possible exposure to irritants, any food that is causing the ‘flare-ups’  and the use of steroids and other medications. Following tests can be conducted to detect the causes of eczema-

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  • Patch Testing- Substances are placed on the skin surface to test for skin allergies.
  • Skin Prick Testing- A needle containing a small amount of a suspected allergen is pricked into the skin to test for allergies that do not occur on the skin naturally.
  • Closely Monitored Food Challenges: Foods are eliminated from the diet and reintroduced to detect a food allergy.

An accurate diagnosis of eczema will help you to find the right cure for it. Doctor’s suggest treatments based on the person’s age, symptoms and current health status. Sometimes, eczema disappears over time but for some people it can be a lifelong condition.

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Here are some simple tips to alleviate symptoms of eczema-

  • Take regular warm baths.
  • After bath apply moisturizer within 3 minutes to ‘lock in moisture’ and prevent dryness.
  • Moisturize daily.
  • Wear cotton and soft fabrics. Avoid rough fibers like wool and tight-fitting clothing.
  • Use mild soap cleanser or a non-soap cleanser when washing.
  • Air-dry or pat-dry your skin after bath, don’t rub.
  • Avoid rapid changes of temperature that can cause excessive sweating, for instance too much of running.
  • Use a humidifier in dry or cold weather.
  • Learn about your eczema triggers and avoid them.
  • Keep the fingernails short to prevent scratching and breaking the skin since this can trigger infections.
  • Keep yourself calm since stress can also cause eczema ‘flare-ups’.
  • Selects soaps without dyes and perfumes, since it can irritate your skin further. Make sure you rinse the soap completely from the body so that no residue remains on the skin.
  • You can apply cool wet compresses and cover the affected area with bandages to prevent itching and scratching.
  • Applying a hydrocortisone skin can relieve the itching temporarily. You can also use calamine lotion on the affected areas to soothe the skin.
  • Allergy medications especially antihistamines like cetirizine, fexofenadine, and diphenhydramine can be helpful when itching is severe. These medicines can make you drowsy so take it before bedtime.
  • Phototherapy is used to reduce eczema. Here ultraviolet light is applied to the skin to reduce the symptoms of eczema.
  • The drug cyclosporine is administered for those people who don’t respond to other treatments.
  • The FDA has approved two drugs known as topical immunomodulators (TIMs) for the treatment of mild to moderate eczema. The drugs, Elidel and Protopic are skin creams that help to alter the immune system’s response to prevent flare-ups. However, these two drugs are only for short term use because they can cause cancer. These two medicines should be used when all other treatments for eczema fail in adults and children above two years of age. It is not advisable for children under two years.
  • Don’t use detergents with fragrance to wash clothes. Skip the fabric conditioner while washing clothes. Since perfumes or fragrances can irritate the skin and cause flare-ups.
  • A diluted bleach bath decreases the risk of bacterial growth on the skin and chances of further infections. Add half cup (118 milliliters) of household bleach to 40 gallon (151 liter) bathtub filled with warm water. Soak from neck down but don’t submerge the head. Don’t soak for more than 10 minutes. Rinse, pat dry and moisturize. Don’t take bleach bath more than twice or thrice a week.

Many alternative therapies help to ameliorate the skin condition and help fight atopic dermatitis. Chinese Herbal Medicine can reduce itching temporarily. Acupressure also helps to reduce scaling and itching. However evidences for these approaches are not conclusive. Still there is no harm in trying because they are natural remedies and time tested.

  • Dietary Supplements such as Vitamins D and E, zinc, selenium, evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, oolong tea and probiotics help to fight eczema by killing bacteria and other microbes that can trigger eczema. Having fish oils rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids can help to cure eczema.
  • John’s Wort, Calendula flowers, tea tree oil, German Chamomile, Oregon, licorice, grape root and rice bran broth can be applied to the skin to get rid of itching, redness and other symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
  • A gentle massage can improve blood circulation and help to reduce the symptoms of eczema.
  • Homeopathy can sometimes help to reduce redness, itching and the burning sensation.
  • Therapeutic use of color, light and relaxation techniques or Chromo therapy can cure eczema.
  • Bio resonance or the use of electrodes to change the electromagnetic waves of the body can help to cure eczema as well.

 

Sometimes home remedies and alternate therapies work wonders when conventional treatments fail to work. Find more home remedies and alternative therapies for eczema at http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/how-to-deal-with-eczema/.Always consult your doctor regarding the pros or cons while using the alternative medicines like aromatherapy, bio resonance, chromo therapy and homeopathy. You have to be patient to observe its effects as it might take longer than conventional treatments of eczema.

Research is till on to find the exact cause and cure for eczema. However, the motto of any treatment is to reduce the discomfort, redness and itching. Once the discomfort is gone, treating the blister like marks on the skin will not be that tough. Keep your skin healthy and nourished always. So you see every problem has a solution and eczema is no exception!