Eczema is a non-infectious, reoccurring, inflammatory skin condition. Eczema affects 1 in 3 Australians at some stage throughout their lives. The condition is most common in those who have a family member with eczema.
Skin flare ups associated with eczema are often for no apparent reason. The skin becomes red, inflamed, dry, itchy and scaly and in more severe case, the skin may bleed, weep and crust over. Eczema causes significant discomfort to sufferers.
Eczema usually affects young children (2 to 6 months of age), and quite often clears up around the age of 6 years. Eczema can however affect people of all ages.
What causes eczema?
The exact cause of eczema remains unknown. Some triggers have been identified:
- A family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever
- Some foods and alcohol – dairy and wheat products, citrus fruits, eggs, nuts, seafood, chemical food additives, preservatives and colourings
- Irritants – tobacco smoke, chemicals, hot and humid conditions, or cold and dry conditions) and air conditioning or overheating
- Allergens – house dust mites, moulds, grasses, plant pollens, foods, pets and clothing, soaps, shampoos and washing
What are the symptoms?
Itchy skin, dry, red or cracked areas of skin usually found on the:
- Inner elbow
- Backs of knees and ankles
- Weeping skin
- Leathery, thickened skin
Management of eczema
Management of eczema involves limiting your exposure to irritants to avoid flare ups.
- Avoid making your skin excessively hot, i.e. have lukewarm baths and showers and use light blankets on your bed
- Use soaps that is for sensitive skin
- Gently pat your skin dry, do not vigorously rub your skin
- Moisturise your skin three times per day to ‘lock in’ moisture
- Reduce exposure to dust mites
- Wear clothing made from soft, natural materials
- Wear gloves when using any type of chemical or detergent
- Be aware of your triggers and avoid them
- Keep your fingernails short to prevent scratching and breaking your skin
Treatment of eczema
- UVB light treatment – exposure to ultraviolet radiation can assist to reduce the symptoms of eczema. Treatments need to be carefully monitored and under strict medical supervision. A patient with very stubborn eczema may need up to 30 treatments to achieve results.
- Anti-inflammatory ointments
- Oral medication
- Moisturisers (emollients)
- Dietary changes