Eczema is a common inflammation condition of the skin. Although eczema can occur any time in one’s life, it typically starts presenting when one is a child.
You may have come across medical term such as ‘atopic eczema’ or ‘atopic dermatitis’. ‘Atopy’ is a term to describe an umbrella of hypersensitive allergic medical conditions such as allergy rhinitis, hay fever, food allergy, asthma and eczema. ‘Eczema’ is a Greek word that means ‘boils’ and is used to describe rash that is red, dry, itchy that sometimes weeps, blisters or scales, crusts or thickens.
1/3 of children with atopic eczema will develop asthma and/ or hay fever. Atopic eczema affects both male and female equally.
What Causes Atopic Eczema?
Atopic eczema tends to run in the families. The alteration of the gene maintaining a good skin barrier is believed to be the key factor in development of eczema.
It is believed that people with eczema has skin barrier impairment, predisposing them to triggers in the environment* , eventually leading to an inflammatory, allergic, and itchy skin response.
*Triggers in the environment include
- corrosive detergents, soap, wash, or chemicals
- exposure to infection, allergens or bacteria and viruses
Symptoms and Signs of Atopic Eczema
- Red, dry skin
- Scratch marks with bleeding over affected skin area
- Moist and weepy over active eczema skin
- Small water blisters over the hands and feet
- Thickened and uneven skin tone over affected skin areas
How is Atopic Eczema Diagnosed?
Eczema is recognized by doctors or other trained health professionals during physical examination. Blood tests and skin tests are usually not required. Your doctor may offer swab test to look for any concurrent infections on the skin.
Triggers for Atopic Eczema Flare-Up
- Environmental factors: exposure to dust, heat, cotton-wool cloths, animal furs, irritants such as soaps, detergent, chemicals
- Infection/ common cold
- Dry skin
- Teething in babies
- Food allergens
Is there a Cure for Atopic Eczema?
Unfortunately, there remains no cure for eczema. However, there are various options to control the symptoms. Most children with atopic eczema will have 60% improvement of atopic eczema when they progress into adolescence years.
Atopic eczema can affect people in certain occupations that involve contact with irritant materials such as health care workers, hairdresser, food handler, or cleaners. One can present with hand eczema as a result of constant exposure to irritants and allergens.
How can Atopic Eczema be treated?
Most atopic eczema cases can be treated with moisturizers, medicated creams and ointments. The mainstay of treatment is regular use of moisturizer and washing with a moisturiser (rather than soap) to restore and maintain the skin barrier of affected people, so that the skin works as an effective barrier against external environment.
Your doctor may recommend you screams or ointments to reduce the redness and itching of atopic eczema when the rashes are active. The creams and ointment comes in different doses and strengths, and your doctor will advise you on which to use, where and how long to use.Despite many negative connotations with steroid creams, when using appropriately, they are safe and effective for eczema rashes.
You are advised to avoid natural herbal creams as they can cause irritation and allergic reaction.
What can I do myself if I have Atopic Eczema?
- Daily moisturize your skin, at least 2-3 times a day with the most greasy, non-fragrant moisturizer that you can tolerate. Smooth it on your skin following the direction of your hair growth
- Wash with moisturizer. Avoid soap, bubble baths, shower gels, detergents
- Wear non-powdered, non-rubbery gloves when you need to deal with irritants such as doing house work
- Rinse off the chlorinated water after swimming and apply plenty of moisturizer
- Avoid cotton wooly cloths
- Double rinse/wash clothing to remove detergent residues
- Avoid scratching
- Avoid pets
- Avoid heat and dusty places
- Avoid people with active cold sore, as this can runs a risk of a sever generalized cold sore infection in people with eczema
Do not hesitate to speak to your trusted doctor, if you have any concerns about eczema. Treat it early!