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Eczema : Causes, symptoms and treatments

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Eczema is a condition in which the affected person experiences a dry, red and itchy area on the skin caused due to inflammation. Although it is most common in children, people of any age can get affected too. Eczema also goes by the name atopic dermatitis and the treatment can include anything from oral medications to steroid creams to light therapy depending on the severity of the condition.

Symptoms

Eczema can trigger different symptoms in different people. Before the occurring of rashes, the skin, usually feels very itchy. In some cases, the skin can even get inflamed. Upon constant scratching, the skin can bleed, making the condition much worse. This gives rise to what is known as the itch scratch cycle. Here are a few symptoms that could be an indication of eczema.

  • Dry and sensitive skin
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Bad itchiness
  • Appearance of dark patches on the skin
  • Skin turning rough and leathery
  • Skin crusting
  • Swelling

The affected person may experience a few or all of these symptoms. A doctor’s visit is recommended if the symptoms do not go away for a long period of time and flare up instead of subsiding.

Causes

The exact causes of eczema are not known. It is believed to have been caused due to genetic as well as environmental factors. If one or both of the parents have had it before it is more likely for the children to develop the condition as well. The external factors that trigger or intensify eczema includes

  • Soaps, detergents, disinfectants, shampoos, fresh fruit juices, meat, and vegetables
  • Allergens like dust mite, pollen, mold or dandruff
  • Microbes, including viruses, fungi and certain bacteria, such as the Staphylococcus aureus
  • Exposure to extremes of temperature and humidity and retention of perspiration on the skin
  • Dairy products and other foods such as eggs, nuts, soy products, seeds, and wheat
  • High levels of stress
  • Disruption in the hormonal balance, especially in women during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy

Complications

If eczema worsens, it may cause intense itchiness which could disrupt your sleep thus leading to sleep deprivation. It also breaks down the skin barrier, thus leaving the skin exposed to other microbes such as bacteria, virus, and fungus. If the herpes virus enters through this damaged skin, the person may develop a condition known as eczema herpeticum which comes with its own set of complications. If a child develops eczema at an early age, it could also lead to confidence issues.

Treatments

Eczema cannot be permanently cured. However, there are various treatments to relieve the flare ups. This would include over the counter remedies, phototherapy, prescription topical medications, biological drugs, and immunosuppressants. In some cases, natural treatment is also deemed to be equally effective. A person affected by eczema should maintain the following to keep the flare ups under check

  • Identify and avoid exposure to the flare ups
  • Take a daily bath followed by the application of moisturizing cream
  • Stick to the OTC and prescription medicines as suggested by the doctor.

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