What is Eczema / Dermatitis
Eczema and dermatitis are neither contagious nor life-threatening. “Atopic” refers to a person’s tendency to get allergic conditions such as asthma and hay fever. The word dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin.
Certain foods, such as nuts and dairy, can trigger symptoms. Environmental triggers include smoke, pollen, soaps, and fragrances. Eczema is not contagious.
Some people outgrow the condition, whereas others continue to have it throughout adulthood. Rashes may develop anywhere on the body but can be especially uncomfortable when they appear on the face and hands.
Understanding the types of eczema and dermatitis can be difficult; sometimes, the terms “eczema” and “dermatitis” are used interchangeably in casual conversation. Our dermatologists differentiate between them because treatments may differ.
Eczema and Dermatitis Symptoms
In infants and children, the rash usually occurs on the scalp, knees, elbows, and cheeks.
In adults, the rash can occur on the creases of wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, face, and neck.
The rash is usually itchy, red, and scaly. Scratch marks often occur due to the itchy nature of the rash. If one has this rash for a long period of time the affected skin can become thicker. The dry skin can worsen the itching and rash. An “itch-scratch cycle” can occur with rubbing or scratching the skin causing more irritation, and thus, additional itching.
The rash can become worse after eating certain foods. In the case of eczema, this is usually a delayed reaction. However, other reactions to foods can occur more immediately, including hives (itchy welts) and swelling. Allergy testing, either by blood (blood draw) or allergy skin prick (“pricking” foods in a liquid form on the arms or back and waiting 10-15 minutes for an “itchy bump” to occur, indicating an allergy) may be performed by an allergist / immunologist to determine a possible presence of an immediate food allergy. Allergy tests are often positive even in patients who tolerate the food in their diet, and thus foods should not be removed from your diet solely based on the results of these tests.
Types of Eczema & Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is often called “eczema” and is sometimes also called “atopic eczema.”
Atopic dermatitis tends to run in families, and it’s more often seen in babies and children under the age of five years than in people in other age groups. Atopic dermatitis can appear at any age but often appears before a child is a year old.
Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, and the body’s immune system responds with inflammation, which leads to redness, swelling, itching, cracking, and sometimes blistering. There are two distinct types of contact dermatitis: allergic dermatitis and irritant dermatitis.
Dyshidrotic eczema, or dyshidrosis, is a skin condition in which blisters develop on soles of your feet and palms of the hands.
Nummular dermatitis appears as raised, red patches that are often very itchy. These patches are often circular, or coin-like, which is what the word “nummular” means. This type of rash can appear anywhere on the body and may last for weeks or months.
Nummular dermatitis appears most frequently in people older than age 50 but may be seen in children and adolescents too. The cause of nummular dermatitis remains unclear.
This happens in areas of your body with lots of oil glands. When it’s on your scalp, it’s called dandruff.
This is a long-term condition that causes inflammation, ulcers, & itchy skin on the lower legs of people with poor blood flow.
Eczema treatment’s aim is easing and preventing itching, which can lead to infection.
Because your skin is dry and itchy, your doctor will suggest lotions and creams to keep it moist. Natural remedies include
- Aloe vera gel
- Apple cider vinegar
- Bleach in the bath
- Colloidal oatmeal
- Coconut oil and honey
- Tea tree oil
Over-the-counter products like hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines can also help hold in moisture on skin.
Your doctor may also prescribe creams and ointments with corticosteroids to ease inflammation. If the area becomes infected, you’ll probably need antibiotics.
Other options include tar treatments (chemicals that reduce itching), phototherapy (using ultraviolet light), and the drug cyclosporine.
A biologic drug called dupilumab (Dupixent) is FDA approved for moderate to severe eczema. Biologics block certain proteins from binding to receptors on your cells. This eases or prevents inflammation by keeping your immune system from overreacting.
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