Eczema is a chronic skin condition in which the skin becomes itchy, reddened, cracked and dry. Eczema, is often referred to as atopic dermatitis (the most common form of Eczema).
Eczema typically shows itself as patches of chronically itchy, irritated skin, on the hands, neck, chest, face, scalp, and legs, although it can occur on any part of the body. Some patients with facial eczema, may develop symptoms around the eyes and eyelids. Babies tend to show symptoms on the face.
Eczema affects approximately 3% of adults and children. Baby eczema occurs in 10-20% of infants. However, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, atopic eczema now affects between 9 – 30% of the U.S. population and is more common in young children and infants.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema is almost always itchy, no matter where it appears. Sometimes the itching will start before the rash appears. Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can appear darker or lighter, since it affects the pigmentation.
Causes of Eczema
There are different types of eczema depending on their cause and where they occur on the body. The exact cause of eczema is not clearly understood but is thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to irritants, resulting in a rash. Given that, eczema can be brought on by:
- Allergies secondary to digestive disorders such as hydrochloric acid deficiency
- Rashes secondary to immune diseases
- Genetic metabolic disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin B, especially Niacin (Vitamin B3 and B6)
Types of Eczema
Many skin conditions are considered a type of eczema. The word dermatitis is often interchanged with eczema. Atopic dermatitis is one type. Other types include hand dermatitis, nummular dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Dandruff is a mild type of seborrheic eczema. Diaper rash and the rash that many people get after coming into contact with poison ivy are other types of eczema. Below are the most common types of eczema and where they may appear:
Contact Eczema or Dermatitis – this will show up anywhere an irritant, item, or substance like chemicals, perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, come into contact with the skin and create a rash.
Atopic Eczema or Dermatitis – this is the most common type of eczema. It can appear anywhere on the body. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an inherited tendency and occurs in people with a family history of allergy, vitamin B12 problems, asthma, and allergic respiratory problems such as hayfever. This can occur in infancy and may subside after 3-4 years, then reappear in adolescence or adulthood.
Seborrheic Eczema – this shows up in the scalp, face and chest area.
Nummular Eczema – these are coin-shaped, chronic red spots with crusting and scaling. They normally occur after age 35 and are often associated with emotional stress, or appear in the winter when dry skin is a problem.
Localized Scratch Dermatitis or Eczema – this occurs in specific patches on the arms, legs, ankles, or around the genitals. It will often appear as whitish areas with areas of obvious pigmentation or color. This is more frequent in women between 20 and 50 years old and is made worse by stress and scratching.
Treating Eczema can be difficult. It requires a consistent approach and may take months to show signs of improvement.
- Eczema Photos (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Skin Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Dermatitis: Types, Symptoms and Causes (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- The Disc-like Lesions of Nummular Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema on the Face (healthyskinsolutions.com)
Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Future Medicine Publishing, Inc.2009.
National Institutes of Health: U.S. Library of Medicine website: Eczema