What is Eczema: Everything you need to know

Eczema is a skin condition characterised by dry, red, inflamed and irritated skin. It is connected to your immune system, and is usually an inflammatory response to another cause or condition.

There are seven types of eczema: 

  1. Atopic Dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, and usually causes skin to feel itchy, dry and become cracked. 
  2. Contact Dermatitis: this is a reaction which occurs following contact with a substance which your immune system considers a foreign entity
  3. Dyshidrotic Eczema: this is a condition characterised by irritation of the skin on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet. 
  4. Nummular Eczema: this can look like psoriasis or a fungal infection and is commonly circular in shape, appearing across the arms, legs and / or torso
  5. Seborrheic Dermatitis: this is a condition which normally affects your scalp causing scaly patches, and dandruff.
  6. Stasis Dermatitis: this is an irritation on the lower leg, usually caused by circulatory problems and could be indicative of other health issues.
  7. Neurodermatitis: Usually a life-long condition, this eczema begins with a small patch which once itched, continues to itch worse and as scratched develops more aggressively.  

[source https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/ ]

Eczema can begin during childhood – and commonly affects new-borns, but it is not uncommon to develop the condition during adolescence. 

While the causes are relatively unknown, it is often triggered by genetic, environmental and lifestyle circumstances. On the plus side, eczema is not contagious – i.e. you can’t catch it from someone. 

What are the general symptoms of eczema?

The symptoms of eczema can vary person to person. Your symptoms may appear in one area and look different to someone else who maybe older or younger than you. Different types of eczema can appear in different places – stasis appears on the lower leg, and dyshidrotic eczema can appear on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. 

In most cases, the common symptoms of eczema include: 

  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Itching
  • Inflammation and red skin

You may experience all or some of these conditions, but these are not conclusive of eczema and you may experience other more specific conditions depending on your age or type of condition. 

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, and usually causes skin to feel itchy, dry and become cracked. 

It commonly affects the hands, elbows, back of your knees as well as the face and scalp. This type of dermatitis can go through periods of calmness, and periods of intense flare-ups (inflammation) where your skin can become red and feel like its burning – for example when taking a hot shower.

[see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/]

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is caused by a reaction to a substance that has had direct contact with your skin. This can include soap, detergent, jewellery and fragrances.  Symptoms are commonly associated with a red, itchy rash and dry, scaly skin. 

Symptoms of Dyshidrotic Eczema

This kind of eczema causes blisters and rash to form on across the palms of your hand or soles of your feet and can be very uncomfortable. The symptoms of this are quite noticeable, in that the palms or soles will itch and erupt into tiny blisters. 

Symptoms of Nummular Eczema

Symptoms can include a coin shaped lesion across your body, as well as the typical symptoms of itchiness, inflammation and oozing liquid coming from the affected areas. 

Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Symptoms include dandruff, red skin and itching of the scalp. 

Symptoms of Stasis

Statis is usually characterised by a thickened, reddish skin on the lower legs such as the ankles. Other symptoms include the usual symptoms of eczema such as itching, swelling and potentially oozing of the sore patches.

Symptoms of Neurodermatitis

This kind of eczema is a violent circle which begins with an itchy patch of skin, which once scratched makes it even itchier until the skin becomes thick and leathery [source – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/neurodermatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20375634].

Causes of Eczema

While there is no single attributable cause to Eczema, it is generally accepted that eczema can be directly correlated to common triggers around the environmental and lifestyle choices, and also genetic changes. Common triggers accepted include: 

  • Diet – certain people have food allergies or intolerances such as to dairy, eggs and nuts. A symptom of such allergy or intolerance may appear as an eczema as your body reacts 
  • Irritants – things such as shampoo, soaps and washing up liquid could pose as irritants which your skin reacts negatively to, causing a trigger of eczema. This could also include certain fabrics such as wool or even leather. 
  • Environmental factors – changes to the weather such as from hot to cold, could trigger certain eczema. If you find your hands going dry during the winter, this could be a sign your body is sensitive to certain environmental triggers. 
  • Hormonal changes – as your body fluctuates on estrogen or testosterone
  • Stress – in any circumstance when your body feels stress, it could have the consequence of manifesting itself through eczema related symptoms on your body

Can eczema be cured?

There is no real cure for eczema, and treatment options usually aim to help reduce and prevent future flare ups. 

Common directions will include to understand the cause of your eczema flare ups. So if this is to do with consuming dairy, you will likely be advised to switch to a diet with vegan alternatives. 

Or, if your flare ups are due to certain textiles worn in winter (woollen jumpers), then maybe switching over to a material which doesn’t cause the irritation will help create a long lasting remedy. 

Natural Remedies 

While traditional doctors will prescribe steroid based topical creams, we advocate the use of natural based “alternative” treatments which are more scalable long term, in that they seldom cause potential harm to your body.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is usually touted as the definitive answer to most common skin and hair problems. What makes coconut oil promising for its resolve against eczema symptoms is it anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which could soothe flare ups. 

However, whether it works on you as an individual could be another story entirely. Plus, you maybe allergic to coconut, so be aware before trying. 

Turmeric

Turmeric is another aged old remedy for virtually everything, used for centuries across India and Asian regions plus Ayurvedic treatment. 

Turmeric is not proven to help relieve eczema conclusively, and people have had mixed results. However, like coconut oil, turmeric does contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidative compounds which could help relieve the inflammation. Once you relieve the inflammation and associated itch, the reduced scratch could help further relieve the flare ups and eventually manage the condition. 

Vitamins / Supplements

Most of our modern-day ailments can be prescribed to a diet low in vitamins and minerals. Eczema is an immune system response to an underlying condition, and it follows to strengthen the immune system to help relieve eczema. 

Common deficiencies include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium / Zinc
  • Omega fatty acids
  • Pre and Probiotics

By supplementing with these vitamins and supplements, you may find your immune system improving, lending itself to improved management of eczema. 

Acupressure Massage, Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong

Acupressure massage, meditation and a form of Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong have one theme in common. They are traditional remedies and are all designed to help reduce stress, while building up mental energy. 

Stress releases cortisol and can contribute to an inflammation of your body in response to the “fight or flight” symptom associated with stress. And inflammation is the key symptom behind eczema. 

They all work on the adage of releasing energy blockages and controlling our stress state. As our bodies have energy system, the proper flow of which helps our physical body function efficiently, by tackling any blockages which have developed over time could help release the issues and underlying conditions which are causing the immune response in the first place.

Summary

Eczema is a painful and irritating condition to live with. Affecting millions around the world, it can result in permanent lifestyle changes to manage the condition. 

However while there are no direct cures, eczema is an immune system response and it is vital to understand your body and how it reacts to any situation. Do you have a food allergy? Have you been wearing an item of clothing which may be affecting you? Are you unduly stressed? 

By understanding triggers, you will be able to take preventative measures and maybe keep eczema at bay. 

Writer’s note

As a side, editor’s note – I suffered from Eczema symptoms throughout my early years from 5/6 onward all the way into age of 15/16. While I don’t know what the underlying cause was for the condition during my early pre-teen years (I assume it’s to do with dairy and general wellness – I also suffered with tight / congested breathing) I found during my teenage years it was in fact items of clothing which were causing my condition to come back and flare up (a leather jacket and a few woollen jumpers). By removing these and being more mindful of my triggers, touch wood it’s stayed away and I’ve been able to live a little more peacefully since. 

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About the Author

Nav
Navhttps://www.asantewellbeing.com
Nav is the founder of Hypermind which is driven on the mission to merge Technology with things that really matter - including Health and Wellbeing.

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