Eczema is a general term used to describe an inflammation of the skin. Eczema describes a series of chronic skin conditions that produce itchy rashes, which appear as scaly, dry and leathery areas, skin redness, or inflammation around blisters. Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most frequently found in the creases of the face, arms, and legs. Itchiness is the key characteristic and eczema symptom. When scratched, the lesions may begin to ooze and develop a crust. Over time, painful cracks in the scaly, leathery tissue can form, which may lead to infection and the need to see an eczema specialist for treatment.
Eczema affects people of all races, genders, and ages. Most doctors think eczema is hereditary. This skin condition is not contagious. The eczema cause remains unknown, but it usually has physical, environmental, and/or lifestyle triggers. Encountering a trigger, such as wind or an allergy-producing fabric, launches the rash and inflammation. Although it is possible to get eczema only once, most cases are chronic and are characterized by intermittent flare-ups throughout a person’s life.
Eczema takes on different forms depending on the trigger and the location of the rash. While they all share some common symptoms – like itchiness – there are important differences. The following are some of the most common types of eczema.
There is no known cure for these conditions, but there are several eczema treatments available. For mild cases, over-the-counter topical creams and antihistamines can relieve the itching. In persistent cases, a dermatologist will likely prescribe stronger medicine, such as steroid creams, oral steroids (corticosteroids), antibiotic pills, or antifungal creams to treat any potential infection.
As most any eczema specialist will tell you, the best form of prevention is to identify and remove any triggers. People with eczema should also use mild cleansers and keep the skin well moisturized. Do your best to avoid scratching the rash, which can lead to infection, and situations that make you sweat, such as strenuous exercise.
Eczema is rarely a dangerous skin condition, and most people will not need to visit a doctor. However, chronic eczema can become very uncomfortable and unsightly. Moreover, eczema that has hardened and cracked is susceptible to infection, which will need medical attention. If your condition is severe, visiting the dermatologist can result in a personalized eczema treatment plan.