Perhaps you have been told you have ‘eczema’. Eczema comes from a Greek word which means to ‘bubble over’. Did you know that this is a general term that encompasses many different skin afflictions? Eczema is a condition that affects as many as 30 million people according to the National Eczema Organization.
It is estimated this condition affects 10% of babies. It also affects children and adults. The following conditions are a more specific skin condition within the broader category of eczema: Atopic dermatitis -the most common, long lasting, and severe Hand eczema “hand dermatitis” Contact dermatitis – skin is inflamed when it comes into contact with certain chemicals Seborrheic dermatitis – this is a condition very similar to eczema Dyshidrotic eczema – blistering condition that is two times more common in women and it is most common on fingers, palms and soles of feet Stasis dermatitis – skin eruptions that happen if a person has problems with their veins – especially in their lower legs Eczema is thought to likely be inherited although the exact cause is unknown.
Some causes are thought to be irritants, allergies, microbes (such as a virus or bacteria), certain foods, extreme temperatures, stress or hormones. 80% of children that have eczema will develop hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Eczema occurs mostly on the face of babies and primarily the chin. It also can develop on the scalp, outer arms, trunk and legs. Children develop it more on areas like the inner elbow, ankles, wrist and inner knees. Adults may have patches anywhere on their body including arms and legs or tops of ears. There are many signs and symptoms of eczema. Usually the skin has patchy, dry, angry red marks. Sometimes there are raised areas, rough leathery patches or dark colored patches. There is always itching & at times it is so intense that one has problems sleeping and the scratching can be so rough it could draw blood. An ‘itch-scratch cycle’ has been coined due to the sequence of unfortunate events that happens with those with eczema.
The itchy skin causes the person to itch and scratch which damages the skin. This itching and skin damage releases chemicals that further damage the skin and the person itches even more. Treatments are varied and numerous although there is no one treatment that is a sure remedy. The topical treatments include creams and lotions. Some are prescription like hydrocortisone creams and some are over the counter like aloe based lotions. There are even some home remedies like vinegar or bleach baths. Certain vitamins and herbs have been used with some success along with other natural eczema treatments.
Other treatments include anything to keep the skin moist so it doesn’t crack allowing more bacteria in and also to soothe the skin. This includes a wet wrap on the affected area with a dry bandage over it. Humidifiers used in the room to keep the air moist are also recommended. Using moisturizers daily and applying lotion within minutes of a lukewarm bath to seal in the moisture. Lukewarm is another key. Extreme temperatures will sometimes heighten the effects of eczema. Exercising where the body sweats is not recommended. Sunburn and frosty subzero temperatures may also worsen the symptoms.
One alternative treatment in the literature has had good reviews with positive patient testimonials. It is a guide called “Eczema Free Forever” and does not utilize creams or lotions. Their premise is that eczema should be treated from within the body and not just on the outside. This guide claims to not use medication and it will actually slow down the aging process and create toned and younger looking skin. Check it out!