A Complete Guide To Eczema Causes And Symptoms
Eczema Skin Rash Causes And Symptoms
Dealing with itchy, scaly, reddish skin? While there are a number of different skin conditions which can result in these symptoms, there is a strong possibility that you have eczema, a very common condition which affects around 245 million people around the world. Within this comprehensive guide to eczema causes and symptoms, you will better understand how to prevent eczema skin rash from getting worse.
What Is Eczema?
Also known as “dermatitis” (which simply translates to “inflammation of the skin”), eczema results in rashes which theoretically can form anywhere on your body, but which are most likely to turn up around the knees, elbows, hands, feet, or face.
What Are Common Symptoms of Eczema
While there can be variations in how eczema manifests, the following symptoms and characteristics are typical of an eczema flare:
Some people experience all of these symptoms, while others may only suffer from a few. Symptoms are relatively mild in some patients, and more severe in others. They also may come and go frequently, or they may go into remission for long time periods. The symptoms of eczema skin rash also vary from one form to the next (more on that momentarily).
What Causes Eczema?
Scientists are not sure what the cause of eczema is, but it appears that both genes and environmental factors may be involved. Studies have implicated a protein called filaggrin as well as the genetic variants OVOL1, ACTL9, and IL4-KIF3A.
There are also indications that there may be a genetic link involving celiac disease, since those who have celiac disease are about three times as likely to have eczema as those who do not.
As to environmental factors which could be involved in eczema, it is thought that lack of exposure to bacteria during childhood development could result in an increased risk for eczema, as well as conditions such as allergies or asthma.
Basically, when you have a flare-up of eczema, it is thought that your body is overreacting to irritants in your environment. Indeed, some eczema sufferers notice exposure to certain substances or even textures (like coarse materials) trigger their flare-ups.
Is Eczema Contagious?
This question has an easy and reassuring answer, and that is “no.” Eczema is not a contagious skin condition. You do not need to worry about spreading eczema to anyone, and you cannot catch it from anyone else.
Different Types of Eczema
Eczema is something of an umbrella term, encompassing a number of different conditions. Here are some of the most common types of eczema:
- Atopic dermatitis eczema - This chronic form of eczema typically starts in infancy, and is considered to be part of the “atopic triad” alongside asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Atopic dermatitis is characterized by itching, redness, scaly skin, and cracking skin behind the ears. During flare-ups, weeping or crusted sores are not uncommon.
- Contact dermatitis symptoms - As the name implies, this type of eczema flares in direct response to physical contact with some sort of irritant. In some cases, this is an allergic reaction, while in others, it is simply the result of irritation. If you have contact dermatitis and you touch an irritant, your skin may react by becoming itchy, red and inflamed.There are numerous different irritants which can lead to a dermatitis flare-up. Some people are sensitive to different irritants than others. Some common examples include solvents, bleach, chemicals, detergents, smoke, or fumes, astringents or alcohol (or products that contain them), soaps, foods which are acidic, fragrances, wool, pollen, or dander.
- Dyshidrotic eczema - This form of eczema specifically manifests on the soles and toes of the feet and/or the palms and fingers of the hands. While it is most common for women to get dyshidrotic eczema, men may experience this condition as well. Flare-ups take the form of small blisters which itch. Dyshidrotic eczema can have quite a few triggers. Sometimes it occurs in conjunction with allergies, or it might be a form of contact dermatitis (cobalt, nickel and chromium salts are all common culprits). Stress may bring on an attack as well.
- Seborrheic dermatitis causes - Seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly known as “dandruff,” produces itchy, flaky patches of skin on the scalp as well as (in some cases) the face. As with other forms of dermatitis, redness, and sores can appear if you scratch at the affected areas. Dandruff is of course one of the most well-known forms of eczema, though many people do not realize that it is a form of eczema, and not simply a result of poor hair-care. When seborrheic dermatitis occurs in babies, it is called “cradle cap.”
- Hand eczema causes - This is one of the most common forms of eczema, estimated to affect up to around 10% of the population. Contact with irritants can set it off. It is of course confined to the hands, and features the typical redness, itching, dryness, peeling, cracking, and blisters associated with the various forms of eczema.
- Stasis dermatitis causes - This type of eczema is a bit different from most. Sometimes blood flow issues can result in pressure building up, generally in the lower legs. When this happens, the veins can leak, causing redness, swelling, scaling, itching, and pain in the surrounding skin. Sometimes, when stasis dermatitis is severe enough, it can also result in cracking, ulcers, oozing and infection.
- Nummular eczema causes - Also referred to as “nummular dermatitis” or “discoid eczema,” this is another type of eczema which presents quite distinctively. With nummular eczema, round bumps appear on the skin. These bumps can itch furiously, and may also occur in conjunction with peeling and dryness. Sometimes open sores form. Significantly harder to treat than many other types of eczema, it is believed to be triggered by dry skin, other types of skin inflammation, or bites from insects.
- Neurodermatitis - This type of dermatitis is also referred to as “lichen simplex chronicus.” It is distinguished by leathery, scaly patches of skin which itch. Discoloration of the skin is common. Most typically, it shows up on the wrists, hands, feet, ankles, shoulders, neck, and scalp. Now you are familiar with some of the most common and well-known types of dermatitis. Remember, even the same type of eczema can present quite differently in two different individuals, depending on genetic and environmental factors.
Is There a Cure for Eczema?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there is no cure for eczema at this time. If you have a child with eczema, there is a good chance that he or she will outgrow it, but for many, eczema flares will continue over the course of a lifetime.
How to Treat Eczema Skin Rash
Thankfully, eczema is treatable in both toddlers and adults. It is possible to reduce flare-ups in terms of both frequency and severity. The exact treatment steps you need to take may vary depending on which form of eczema you have, but the following recommendations should help regardless of the specifics of your case:
- Use the right soaps and shampoos - Many soaps and shampoos contain sulfates and other additives which can dry out your scalp and skin. Some may also contain chemicals which can trigger contact dermatitis.Get away from these products and replace them with something soothing and gentle for your sensitive skin. You can even purchase shampoos for dandruff. Another tip for severe eczema skin rash is to take a bath with a tiny bit of bleach added in to kill the germs on your skin.
- Moisturize your skin regularly, especially in the dry months of winter - Dry skin is a very common eczema trigger, so do what you can to keep your skin hydrated. Invest in a quality moisturizer; you do not need anything fancy. Petroleum jelly works fine on its own. Tip: Many people apply moisturizer incorrectly by rubbing it directly into dry skin. All this does is lock moisture out, making your skin drier. Instead, get your skin damp first, then apply the moisturizer to seal it in.
- Avoid showering with very hot water - When you take a very hot bath or shower, all you do is dry your skin out. This can result in an immediate flare-up.
- Identify and avoid your triggers - Every person has his or her own set of eczema triggers. Learn to identify yours by taking notes. Keep a log of your activities, diet, other health conditions, and resulting flare-ups, and eventually you will be able to spot patterns. Previously, you learned about some common substances which can trigger contact dermatitis. You also know that dry skin and stress can trigger flare-ups. Other common triggers include moving from hot to cold conditions (or the reverse), sweating, allergies, infections (like staph or athlete’s foot), allergens, or changes in your hormones. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid exposure. You can replace products in your household containing irritants, dress better for the weather, and predict flare-ups in response to hormonal changes.
- Consider a humidifier - This is an easy way to put some moisture back into your home environment during the winter.
- Get stress under control - Try deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques. Make time for leisure in your life, and say “no” to commitments that are not important. Treat anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders you might have. All of these steps can help reduce your stress levels, and your flare-ups.
- Get out in the sun - If you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, you may notice that sunlight is able to reduce the severity of your flare-ups. In fact, you may also have fewer flare-ups over the summer, especially if you spend time outside.
- Try over-the-counter or prescription medications - There are quite a few medications you can get OTC or through a prescription to treat eczema, including: Hydrocortisone, Corticosteroids, Antihistamines. Immune system drugs such as cyclosporine, azathioprine or methotrexate. Prescription eczema creams like pimecrolimus or tacrolimus. You can also ask about prescription moisturizers.
- There is also ultraviolet light therapy to consider - For particularly severe cases of eczema which do not respond adequately to other treatment methods, ultraviolet light therapy is another option. Research indicates that this method is well-tolerated and effective.This method works by targeting the eczema with narrowband ultraviolet b (UVB) light. This is the same wavelength which makes sunshine such an effective remedy for dermatitis.Ultraviolet light therapy can lead to improvements in around 70% of cases, and can sometimes send the condition into remission for an extended time. It does have long-term health risks however, so discuss the option thoroughly with your doctor before committing to a treatment plan.
Conclusion: Eczema Skin Rash Is Very Common and Very Treatable
Mild eczema can be irritating, and severe eczema can significantly impact your quality of life—but remember, you are far from alone in suffering from dry, itchy, inflamed skin. Eczema is incredibly common. And while it may be a lifelong affliction, there is a lot you can do to get it under control. Once you do, you will find that it is possible to live a normal, enjoyable life even with the occasional flare-up. At the end of the day, gaining a better understanding of eczema skin rash causes and symptoms should help you deal with this condition.