Understanding Eczema

Eczema is a skin disorder that affects infants as well as young children, and adults. It is one of a group of inflammatory skin conditions. Eczema conditions may be more common than you think. It is estimated by the National Institutes of Health that 15 million United States inhabitants have some form of eczema. It is also estimated that approximately 15% of all infants have eczema in the United States. There is no known cause for eczema. It appears that people who have a family history of allergies are more prone to have eczema. Most people who have eczema also have a personal or family history of allergic rhinitis or asthma.

Eczema does not affect every person in the same way. The disorder is characterized by dry, red, itchy patches of skin which is further irritated by scratching. The eczema disorder is also characterized by periods of relative stability and flare ups. Eczema can occur on any part of the body although there seems to be some difference in the regions that are affected in infants as opposed to adults. Eczema seems to primarily affect infants on their cheeks, forehead, necks , arms, legs, and scalps. The eczema disorder seems to affect children and adults primarily on faces, necks, and the insides of knees and elbows. Some eczema sufferers find the temptation to scratch irresistible. excessive scratching can lead to leathery skin and even skin infection.

Eczema can be difficult to diagnose. The health care provider will ask probing questions as to the onset, triggers, and changes of the affected area. Pictures may be taken to chart the worsening of the affected area. A complete patient/ family medical history and a physical examination will also be completed. Lab tests such as prick and patch tests may also be ordered to properly diagnose eczema.

A diagnosis of eczema is a cause for action. Since the disease is transitive in nature, it is possible to decrease the intensity and frequency of flare ups. There are several ways to accomplish this goal. These include frequent moisturizing of affected areas with mild lotions and creams, avoiding harsh soaps and other known irritants, avoiding extreme temperature changes, and reducing stress. Some eczema sufferers are allergic to nickel w which is found in many jean snaps. While buying nickel free clothing is an option, painting over the snaps with clear nail polish will also work. Many health care providers recommend this action. It is better to be safe than sorry! Gloves or mittens can also be worn to reduce the affects of scratching the itchy areas. Remember to continue the proper skin care regimen even if the affected areas clear up. These areas are still sensitive and prone to future flare ups.

While attempting to prevent the severity and intensity of eczema flare ups is one approach to dealing with the disorder, it must be noted that every flare will not be prevented. There are many ways in which eczema can be treated. Cold compresses can be applied to the affected areas to reduce itchiness and inflammation. Creams and lotions can also be applied to eczema affected areas several times daily to reduce undesirable effects. Over the counter and prescription preparations are available. Corticosteroid creams are often a choice in reducing the inflammation associated with eczema. For very severe cases of eczema flare ups, treatments such as oral antihistamines, tar treatments, and photo therapy may be in order. Your health care provider will work closely with you to develop the treatment regimen that is appropriate for your individual needs.

New medicines and treatment options are steadily being researched and developed for the prevention and treatment of eczema. Side effects to eczema treatments can occur. The actual effects will depend on the prevention and treatment methods used. Be sure to discuss any possible side effects prior to and throughout treatment with your health care provider.

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