Is your skin very dry, red or damaged?
It may be due to eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema, also called “dermatitis”, is one of the most common skin conditions. The term encompasses a variety of conditions which affect the topmost layer of the skin. Typical symptoms of eczema include inflammation, irritation, dryness, and redness of the skin.
The most common type of eczema is called “atopic dermatitis”. The term “atopic” refers to a predisposition to developing allergic reactions. Therefore, this type of eczema is often associated with food or ragweed allergies, for instance. Individuals affected by atopic dermatitis have skin which tends to react strongly to all kinds of stimuli. This text will mainly focus on this type of eczema.
What are the causes and risk factors of eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is currently unknown. However, it is known that genetics plays a significant role in the development of the condition; certain people have a predisposition to it due to heredity. In fact, individuals having a close relative who is affected by eczema are more at risk of having it.
Certain external factors can also contribute to eczema symptoms, such as irritating substances and allergens. Additionally, it is believed that stress could increase the onset of symptoms.
Although anyone can be affected by eczema, young children are most at risk. A large majority of those affected by eczema are children under the age of 5. It is estimated that more than 15% of North American children are affected by it.
How can symptoms be recognized ?
Although there are different types of eczema, symptoms are usually similar from one type to another. Here are the main symptoms:
- dry, irritated skin;
- crust formation;
- scaling (skin flakes that detach);
- presence of liquid-filled vesicles.
Eczema most often affects the hands, ankles, elbows, and knees, although symptoms can appear on various parts of the body. The most classic symptom is itching. That is in fact why most patients consult a doctor to obtain treatment.
What should you do if you think you have eczema?
If you think you or your child suffer from eczema, the first step is to see a healthcare professional. It is sometimes difficult to recognize eczema, as its symptoms are similar to several other skin conditions. Make sure you see a doctor before arriving at a diagnosis.
If you do have eczema, prevention is key in managing the condition. The measures you take to keep your skin hydrated and avoid irritating substances will help the skin. Several drug treatments can be used when a flare-up occurs.
Most of the products available for this purpose are in topical form—creams, pomades, gels, etc. Your pharmacist can tell you about the differences between them to help you make an informed choice and explain how to use them properly.
For additional information about the prevention and treatment of eczema, do not hesitate to consult your pharmacist.