Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition where the skin gets red, dry, inflamed, irritated, and itchy. Sometimes eczema is confused with other skin diseases such as psoriasis (psoriasis is characterized by flaky patches of skin which form scales). Eczema is common in young children but it can also occur in teens and adults. Eczema most often occurs where the skin tends to flex- inside elbows, behind the knees, around the neck, and on the hands and feet. Atopic dermatitis is chronic and tends to flare sometimes, however, it is not contagious.
Types of Eczema
There are seven main types of eczema. It can be hard to distinguish them since they tend to have similar symptoms; however, they have unique triggers that can affect the skin barrier function.
- Atopic dermatitis
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic eczema
- Nummular eczema
- Stasis dermatitis
Signs and Symptoms of Eczema
Symptoms of eczema often include:
- Dryness, sensitive skin;
- Inflamed, discolored skin (area affected becomes pink or red. In dark-skinned people, the area affected becomes gray or brown)
- Rough, leathery, or scaly skin
- Oozing or crusting (the oozing can signal infection)
- Areas of swelling
Causes of Eczema
Doctors and scientists do not know the definitive cause of eczema, but it is strongly believed that it develops from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If a parent had an atopic condition (atopic means sensitivity to allergens, atopic conditions include asthma, etc.), there is a likelihood that the child will develop eczema; the risk is higher if both parents have an atopic condition. Environmental factors that can trigger eczema include:
- Irritants: These include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, and juices from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables.
- Allergens: Dust mites, pets, pollens, and mold can all lead to eczema. This is known as allergic eczema.
- Microbes: These include bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.
- Hot and cold temperatures: Very hot and very cold weather, high and low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can bring out eczema.
- Foods: Dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat can cause eczema flares.
- Stress: This is not a direct cause of eczema, but it can make the symptoms worse.
- Hormones: Females may experience increased eczema symptoms when their hormone levels are changing, such as during pregnancy and at certain points in the menstrual cycle.
How to manage and treat Eczema
The best treatment option for eczema is hydration and moisturizing. Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for eczema. Eczema can also be managed with lifestyle changes such as limiting exposure to irritants and other substances that trigger eczema.
- Use fragrance-free, mild wash/cleansers, and limit the bathing time to 5-10 minutes. Examples of washes to use are La Roche Posay Syndet and bar soap, Sebamed sensitive skin bar soap, Aquaphor head-to-toe wash, Aveeno therapy wash, and Epimol-E bar soap.
- Use moisturizers like emollients with moisturizing components like panthenol, liquid petroleum, emulsifying ointments, aqueous cream, and also products with oatmeal that lock in moisture into the skin. Thick creams and ointments are more effective than lotions and oils. Apply the moisturizers as often as necessary to achieve relief. We recommend the following moisturizers for eczema: Aveeno eczema therapy, Eucerin, Aquaphor healing ointment, Sudocrem, CeraVe healing ointment, and Cetaphil eczema creams are among the wide range of products we have.
- Oral OTC and Prescription products. In severe cases of eczema, a visit to a pharmacist, doctor, or dermatologist is advised. The health practitioner will advise the use of OTC antihistamines and topical steroid creams/ointments to relieve itching,
- CAUTION: Steroid creams/ointments SHOULD NOT be used for more than two weeks. Prolonged use of steroid creams/ointments can cause thinning of the skin, irritation of the skin, and discoloration of the skin.
- Knowing and avoiding triggers. Common environmental triggers for eczema are weather changes, soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, and juices from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables.
As you have seen, eczema is a big topic and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here at Portal Pharmacy, our pharmacists will gladly assist you on the journey of managing eczema. Feel free to contact us via call or WhatsApp chat at +254 740 637700