Eczema is a general term used to describe a strange variety of skin rashes ranging from small sections of skin that are slightly itchy, somewhat dry and irritated to chronically inflamed, oozing, crusted areas covering the entire body and accompanied by incessant itching. Though some similarities excist, interestingly, eczema can have multiple appearances, looking and feeling completly different from person to person.
Dispite years of research, the actual cause of this condition remains unknown. One of the predominant theories is that someone with eczema has a short circuited immune system. What that means is the skin reacts abnormally when a substance comes in contact with the skin. In severe cases of eczema , the substance can be as benign as water.
For others the trigger can be anything from clothing, detergents, soaps, grass, food products, allergens (including dust mites) to a lack of humidity, or a combination of all elements. Even more frustrating is that the reaction can be intermittent with no real rhyme or reason for why or when.
There also seems to be a hereditary component to eczema. For example a children whose parents suffer from eczema have a 80% chance of developing it themselves. Further in both children and adults, stressful situations tend to trigger, prolong, or worsen eczema flare ups.
Types of Eczema:
- Atopic Eczema: Perhaps the most pernicious and painful types of eczema, its characterised by its severity and intolerable sensation of itching and irritation leaving skin raw, fissures and vunerable to infection.
- Allergy or irritant contact dermatitis: This specific form of eczema occurs when a particular substance comes in contact with the skin causing the immune syatem to overreact, becoming inflamed and sensitized. Most typically this can be caused by fragrence, nickel, detergents, wool, grass, citruses, household cleaning products and vinegar.
- Infantile Seborrhoeic Eczema: Better known as cradle cap, this form of eczema only affects babies during their first year of life. The crusty, thick, sometimes reddened lesions may look problematic, but this disorder is rarely itchy or even felt by the child.
- Adult Seborrhoeic Eczema: Shows up for most people after the age of 20 and 40. It is usually seen on the scalp as mild dandruff, but can spread to the face, ears and chest.. The skin becomes red and inflammed and starts to flake. The condition is believed to be caused by a yeast growth.
- Nummular Eczema: Typically located on the legs, nummular eczema is characterized by coin-shaped patches of pink to red skin that may take an orange cast if crusting or scaling is present. If treatment is not used, the dry scaly spots typically darken and thicken. This type of eczema is most common in adolescent girls and women between the ages of 50-60 and the condition tends to occur in winter.
Treatment for Eczema:
- Gentle, effective skin care: The first line of defense is a gentle skin care routine that prevents or reduces inflammation and keeps the skin moist and intact. Goats milk products like soap and shampoo are fantastic for eczema and are available in your local health store
- Avoid skin irritants and use natural and organic products suitable for sensitive skin. Ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol and Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (Preservatives) Parfum (Fragrance), Parabens, Alcohol or Essential oils.
- Research has shown that exposing the skin to UVA or UVB light can help reduce the symptoms of chronic eczema.