When you think of eczema, itchy, red, dry, scaly, or thickened skin may come to mind.
Experts aren’t sure what exactly causes eczema. Things that may make it more likely include:
- An immune system response to something irritating
- Problems in your skin’s barrier that let moisture out and germs in
- A family history of other allergies or asthma
Eczema is sometimes called atopic dermatitis, which is the most common form. “Atopic” refers to an allergy. People with eczema often have allergies or asthma along with itchy, red, or hyperpigmented skin.
Eczema comes in a few other forms, too. Each eczema type has its own set of symptoms and triggers.
There are also some common symptoms for all types of eczema:
- dry, scaly skin
- itching, which may be intense
1. Atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. It usually starts in childhood, and often gets milder or goes away by adulthood.
In atopic dermatitis:
- The rash often forms in the creases of your elbows or knees.
- The skin in areas where the rash appears may turn lighter or darker or get thicker.
- Small bumps may appear and leak fluid if you scratch them.
- Babies will often get the rash on their scalp and cheeks.
- Your skin can get infected if you scratch it.
Atopic dermatitis happens when your skin’s natural barrier against the elements is weakened. This means your skin is less able to protect you from irritants and allergens.
Atopic dermatitis is likely caused by a combination of factors, such as:
- dry skin
- an immune system problem
- triggers in the environment
2. Contact dermatitis
If you have red, irritated skin, thick scaly region that’s caused by a reaction to substances you touch, you may have contact dermatitis.
It comes in two types: Allergic contact dermatitis is an immune system reaction to an irritant, like latex or metal. Irritant contact dermatitis starts when a chemical or other substance irritates your skin.
In contact dermatitis:
- You skin itches, turns red, is hyperpigmented or pink, magenta, burns, and stings.
- Itchy bumps called hives may appear on your skin.
- Fluid-filled blisters can form that may ooze and crust over.
- Over time, the skin may thicken and feel scaly or leathery.
Contact dermatitis happens when you touch a substance that irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction. The most common causes are:
- poison ivy and other poisonous plants
- skin care products, including makeup
- soaps and perfumes
- tobacco smoke
3. Dyshidrotic eczema
Dyshidrotic eczema causes small blisters to form on your hands and feet. It’s more common in women than men.
In dyshidrotic eczema:
- Fluid-filled blisters form on your fingers, toes, palms, and the soles of your feet.
- These blisters may itch or hurt.
- Your skin can scale, crack, and flake.
Dyshidrotic eczema can be caused by:
- damp hands and feet
- exposure to substances, such as nickel, cobalt, or chromium salt
- smoking tobacco products
4. Hand eczema
Eczema that only affects your hands is called hand eczema. You may get this type if you work a job, like hairdressing or cleaning, where you regularly use chemicals that irritate the skin.
In hand eczema:
- Your hands get red, hyperpigmented, itchy, and dry.
- They may form cracks or blisters.
Hand eczema is triggered by exposure to chemicals. People are more likely to get this form if they work in jobs that expose them to irritants, such as:
- laundry or dry cleaning
Neurodermatitis is similar to atopic dermatitis. It causes thick, scaly patches to appear on your skin.
- Thick, scaly patches form on your arms, legs, back of your neck, scalp, bottoms of your feet, backs of your hands, or genitals.
- The patches can be very itchy, especially when you’re relaxed or asleep.
- The patches can bleed and get infected if you scratch them.
Neurodermatitis usually starts in people who have other types of eczema or psoriasis. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, but stress can be a trigger.
6. Nummular eczema
This type of eczema causes round, coin-shaped spots to form on your skin. The word “nummular” means coin in Latin.
Nummular eczema looks very different from other types of eczema, and it can itch a lot.
In nummular eczema:
- Round, coin-shaped spots form on your skin.
- The spots may itch or become scaly.
Nummular eczema can be triggered by a reaction to an insect bite or an allergic reaction to metals or chemicals. Dry skin can also cause it.
You’re more likely to get this form if you have another type of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis.
7. Stasis dermatitis
Stasis dermatitis happens when fluid leaks out of weakened veins into your skin.
This fluid causes:
- redness in lighter skin tones
- brown, purple, gray or ashen color in darker skin tones
In stasis dermatitis:
- The lower part of your legs may swell, especially during the day when you’ve been walking.
- Your legs may ache or feel heavy.
- You’ll likely also have varicose veins, which are thick, ropey damaged veins in your legs.
- The skin over those varicose veins will be dry and itchy.
- You may develop open sores on your lower legs and on the tops of your feet.
Stasis dermatitis happens in people who have blood flow problems in their lower legs. If the valves that normally push blood up through your legs toward your heart malfunction, blood can pool in your legs.
Your legs can swell up and varicose veins can form.
Seeing a doctor or dermatologist
See your doctor if the itching, redness, hyperpigmentation, dryness, and scaliness you’re experiencing doesn’t go away, or if it interferes with your life.
A dermatologist can diagnose and treat eczema, but other healthcare professionals may also be able to provide guidance.
To help your doctor understand your condition, consider keeping a diary to identify your eczema triggers. Write down:
- what you eat and drink
- what skin products, chemicals, soaps, makeup, and detergents you use
- what activities you do, such as taking a walk outside in the woods or swimming in a chlorinated pool
- how long you spend in the bath or shower and the temperature of the water
- when you’re under stress
You should begin to notice connections between your activities and your eczema flare-ups. Bring this journal to your doctor to help them pinpoint your triggers.
An allergy specialist can also do a patch test. This test places small amounts of irritating substances on patches that are applied to your skin. The patches stay on your skin for 20 to 30 minutes to see if you have a reaction.
This test can help your doctor tell which substances trigger your eczema, so you can avoid them.
Tips for reducing outbreaks
Here are a few ways to prevent eczema flare-ups and manage symptoms:
- Apply cool compresses to your skin, or take a colloidal oatmeal or baking soda bath to relieve the itch.
- Moisturize your skin daily with a rich, oil-based cream or ointment to form a protective barrier against the elements. Apply the cream right after you get out of the shower or bath to seal in moisture.
- After you bathe, gently pat your skin with a soft towel. Never rub.
- Avoid scratching. You could cause an infection.
- Use fragrance-free detergents, cleansers, makeup, and other skin care products.
- Wear gloves and protective clothing whenever you handle chemicals.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes made from soft fibers, like cotton.
Most eczema comes and goes over time. Atopic dermatitis is usually worst in childhood and improves with age. Other forms of eczema may stay with you throughout your life, although you can take measures to reduce your symptoms.
1. Hydra-Lac Body Lotion | 150ml
Hydra-Lac is a non-irritant, fragrance-free, non-greasy body lotion which is rapidly absorbed when applied. It contains an advanced formula for the treatment of problems associated with skin roughness and scaling. The 12% Sodium Lactate not only hydrates but also retains skin moisture for prolonged periods, especially with over-exposed areas such as the arms and legs.
2. Hydration Moisturising Cream | 75ml
Ideally formulated especially for the face as it is totally absorbed and will not block the pores of the skin. The Vitamin E and Evening Primrose Oil will both nourish and replenish the skin. It can also be applied to any other area of the body which is abnormally dry.
3. Hydration Aqua Bath and Shower Oil | 250ml
This is a dual purpose product useful in both the bath and shower, is formulated for moisturise, protect and treat sensitive dry skins, including conditions such as Eczema. It leaves a protective film of oil on the skin, without the feeling excessive oiliness and is fragrance-free. When bathing, add 10 ml to an average size bath and soak. When showering, apply the oil while the skin is still damp, and before drying. Once applied, you can touch-dry the body with a towel.
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