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Guide by Condition: Eczma

Posted by Emily Ryan on

Understanding and living with Eczema

Baby's feet in palm of mothers hand

The specific cause of eczema is unknown but is believed to develop due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition which causes the skin to become red, itchy, dry and cracked and tends to develop on the hands, elbows and in the bending areas of the body. The most common type of eczema is called atopic eczema, which is more common in children but can also affect adults for the first time too. Usually a long-term condition, eczema has been known to improve or even clear up in adulthood.

Types of Eczema

  • discoid eczema – a type of eczema that occurs in circular or oval patches on the skin
  • contact dermatitis – a type of eczema that occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance
  • varicose eczema – a type of eczema that most often affects the lower legs and is caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins
  • seborrhoeic eczema – a type of eczema where red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp
  • dyshidrotic eczema (pompholyx) – a type of eczema that causes tiny blisters to erupt across the palms of the hands

What are the symptoms of Eczema?

Atopic eczema causes the skin to become sore, itchy, dry and cracked; for some peopleit will only be small patches, but other individuals may experience inflamed skin all over the body. Eczema commonly affects hands, insides of elbows, backs of knees and the face and scalp. It can also flare up during periods when the symptoms can become more severe, usually in colder weather.

What causes Eczema?

Although with no clear cause, atopic eczema is thought to be related to individuals who are susceptible to allergies and often develops alongside other conditions like asthma and hay fever. Eczema can be triggered by certain soaps and detergents which cause irritation, as well as stress and the weather. Food allergies can sometimes contribute to eczema, especially for young children. For this reason, you may be asked to keep a food diary to determine whether a certain food is triggering your symptoms.

Treatment

Although eczema doesn't have a cure, there are ways to help make life with the condition more manageable. These could include:

  • self-care techniques, such as reducing scratching and avoiding triggers
  • emollients (moisturising treatments) – used on a daily basis for dry skin 
  • topical corticosteroids – used to reduce swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups

More information: 

National Eczema Society 

British Skin Foundation


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