Eczema Guide: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Eczema sufferers have a lot to deal with. The physical symptoms of eczema can be embarrassing and make you self-conscious. The emotional consequences of the physical symptoms can cause you to feel depressed, and at higher risk for anxiety and stress. This is what scientific reports are indicating. The more you learn about eczema types, causes, management and treatment, the better you'll be able to manage and minimize the symptoms, mentally or physically.

Types of Eczema

Eczema is very common and statistics show it's increasing since more personal care, skin care and makeup have increased adding irritants to their product lines. People react differently to irritants. These ingredients may be an irritant or 'allergen' and cause the immune system to fight off the reaction which can result in an eczema flare-up. According to the National Eczema Association, there are eight types of eczema with variations of symptoms:

  • Atopic dermatitis is characterized with inflammation and is chronic. It usually starts in childhood, and may be an indication that the child may later have a risk for developing asthma or hay fever. The symptoms or "flare-up" may improve over time, or get worse. Heredity may play a part in increasing the risk of atopic dermatitis, specially if asthma and hay fever are in your family history. Symptoms of this type of eczema can include dry, scaly skin, itching (especially at night), redness and sores along with rashes on your arms, legs, cheeks and knee creases.
  • Contact dermatitis symptoms can appear from touching your skin to an irritating ingredient or it could be an allergic reaction. The common symptoms include swelling, burning, rash, redness and blisters that crust over. Common toxic irritants that cause the symptoms can include harsh detergents, fragrance, alcohol, pollen or animal dander. With allergic contact dermatitis, repeated exposures to the same toxic or irritating substance activates the body's immune system to react with symptoms.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema symptoms are similar to the other types of eczema, but may also include pain. Studies report it's twice as common in women as it is in men. It occurs most commonly on the hands and sometimes the feet. The rash can include tiny blisters.
  • Hand eczema is the most common type of eczema, with up to 10% of the population affected. Patches of rash and redness appear on the hands. First sign of hand eczema may be dry, chapped skin. Burning, itching, painful, even bleeding skin is common.
  • Lichen simplex chronicus causes itching and your skin to be discolored. Symptoms resemble thick, scaly patches that show up on the neck, scalp, shoulders, wrists and back of the hands. 
  • Nummular eczema can occur at any age. This type of eczema has different symptoms, with the most common being raised areas of rashes that appear on the skin. Itching is intense along with wet, open sores and dry, scaly skin. The trigger may be dry skin in winter, skin inflammation or insect bites.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is chronic and shows up near oil-producing glands, called sebaceous glands. Thy are common around the scalp, upper back and the nose. In infants, it's called "cradle cap". It's slightly more common in men than women. Symptoms appear as red rashes, greasy, swelling and crusty flakes that may show up behind the ears as well. Microorganisms that are part of and live on the skin normally, may be a contributing factor. On the scalp, dry flakes (dandruff) and greasy scales with redness are common.
  • Stasis dermatitis occurs where there's a problem with blood flow of veins on the skin. Pressure causes fluid to leak out of the veins into the skin causing swelling in the lower legs, around ankles, redness, scaling, itching and pain.

Eczema Symptoms

The most common symptom of all the different types of eczema is itching. Most types also include redness, bumpy plaques on the skin and various types of eruptions. Depending on the type of eczema, the symptoms can affect different parts of the body.

Causes of Eczema

The cause of eczema may depend on the type, although there are similar triggers in some. The exact cause is not known, but some are predictable based on the type. For example, with contact dermatitis, certain common irritants have been identified. Those include:

  • Fragrance
  • Harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Flavors in toothpaste
  • Formaldehyde
  • Balsam of Peru
  • Parabens
  • lanolin
  • methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)

Eczema Treatment

General physicians can treat the different types of eczema, but if you can't find relief, you may need to see a dermatologist. Treatment may vary depending on the cause, for example, if infection is suspected due to a bite from an organism or the cause is an irritant or allergen. Prescription medications may include corticosteroids and other medications, such as calcineurin inhibitors, that work directly on your immune system. These help to control redness, rash and itching. These drugs do come with a warning that they may increase the risk of cancer. This is controversial with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology report the data don't support the warning. According to Mayo clinic some types of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis, may take months to years to treat, with signs and symptoms still returning. Light therapy has also been used for treatment by exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) and B (UVB).

Managing Eczema

Understanding which triggers starts the chain reaction of symptoms in eczema is extremely important. Irritating ingredients should be avoided, such as the ones listed above. Choose allergy-prone sensitive skincare products and fragrance-free hair and body care products that are recommended by your dermatologist. Other helpful tips include: 

  • Check ingredients on any new product or do a self-patch test.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and wash new clothes prior to wearing them.
  • Use a safe hypoallergenic sunscreen for sensitive skin with SPF 15 to 30.
  • Your quality of life plays a major role in all disease. Stress, good or bad, but especially anger and frustration may worsen itching, which can result in the "itch-scratch cycle".
  • Avoid extremes of temperatures, from outdoor or bathing.
  • Emu oil may be beneficial for lubricating your baby's skin, scalp or on your skin.

In general, find out which type of eczema you have, avoid the triggers, manage stress and most importantly, choose personal care and skin care such as Cleure for sensitive skin products, and you'll help minimize symptoms of eczema.

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