Eczema is a skin condition often demonstrated by irritation or inflammation. Atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of infants 3 percent of adults suffer from eczema. The word eczema is derived from the Greek word ekzein which means to boil out. In Greek, ek means out and zema means boiling. In a large majority of cases, eczema is itchy, either before or after a rash. The rash is generally seen on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands or feet. Areas affected by eczema appear dry, thickened or scaly.
There is no known cause of eczema but it is believed that the disease may be linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to an irritant. Eczema also often occurs in individuals with a history of allergies or asthma. In addition, some people might have flare ups of eczema if they come in contact with certain substances or conditions.
Eczema is not a contagious disease. Eczema occurs more often in people who live in dry climates. Both males and females can develop eczema. There are several environmental factors that can also bring out the symptoms of eczema. These include irritants, allergens, microbes, hot and cold temperatures, foods, stress and hormones.
There are several types of eczema including:
- Dermatitis or allergic contact eczema which is primarily a skin reaction due to contact with a substance that the body’s immune system recognizes as foreign.
- Contact eczema which is a localized skin reaction when it comes into contact with an allergen.
- Dyshidrotic eczema which is an irritation of the skin on the palms of hands or soles of feet.
- Neurodermatitis characterized by scaly patches of skin on head, forearms, wrists or lower legs.
- Nummular eczema characterized by circular patches of skin that is crusted, scaling and itchy.
- Seborrheic eczema resulting in oily, scaly, yellowish patches of skin. This occurs most often on the scalp and face.
- Statis dermatitis which is a skin irritation on lower legs and is mostly caused through circulatory problems.
Since there is no overall cure for eczema, there are certain measures that people can do themselves to control their symptoms. These include taking regular warm baths, applying moisturizer regularly, wearing cotton and soft fabrics, using mild soap, avoiding rapid changes of temperature and sweating, learning their eczema triggers and avoiding them and using a humidifier.