This month marks Eczema Awareness, and it gives us the perfect opportunity to talk about the condition. Eczema is a skin condition that can be quite misunderstood and can often go misdiagnosed. Different to dehydrated or dry skin that you may experience for a few days, Eczema stems from beneath the surface of the skin, and is often linked to your genes.
Eczema is very individual, which means it is different for each person and can also vary with different environments. Mild cases of eczema display themselves as dry, scaly skin patches which may be inflamed, red and itchy. More severe case can also start to weep, crust and bleed with visible blisters. Once this happens, the open wound may also be susceptible to infection, and can worsen by scratching the skin before entering into a vicious cycle.
Eczema is most often seen in young children with one in five of them displaying symptoms and signs; although patients often outgrow these, around 8% of the adult population also suffer from the condition.
Eczema is a genetic condition and can be passed down in families, although it may worsen in certain individuals. Eczema also tends to run parallel to other atopic conditions such as asthma and hay fever, meaning that some patients will suffer from eczema as a result of another condition.
Types of Eczema
The symptoms can vary among individuals and due to this, the types of eczema sometimes overlap. Most commonly seen is the Atopic Dermatitis which presents itself as itchy and inflamed skin, and is a chronic condition which may often be quite severe. This type of eczema is quite likely to be seen in families and individuals who also suffer from asthma and hayfever.
Other types include discoid (larger coin shaped patches), allergic or irritant contact dermatitis (after contact with an allergen), seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) and pompholyx eczema (hand and feet) which all display as inflamed itchy patches, but vary in location and severity, with some patches turning into blisters.
Treatment is often initiated by your GP, but normally consists of emollients and topical steroids which need to be adjusted according to severity and flare-ups. The best treatment is actually achieved by good management and prevention. Patients often stop using creams once their symptoms improve which can trigger dry skin again. In eczema, skin needs external care and this includes applying creams even when you don’t have the symptoms. Contact dermatitis can be prevented by understanding which allergens are prone to affect your skin, whereas cradle cap can be dealt with gently cleaning the scalp with baby or olive oil mixed with warm water, and rinsed with cotton wool.
Although there are many products on the market which help with prevention and treatments, some of my favourite brands include Eucerin (AtoControl) and Avène (XeraCalm), who both have developed products in line with the needs of patients. Make sure to try these out if you haven’t already. If you have any questions about Eczema or if you would like to know more about your skin or any products, then make sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can tweet me @LFpharmacist.