Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a long-term chronic skin disorder. It causes redness, scaly patches, inflammation and swelling of the skin. Other symptoms can include blisters, bumpy skin, itchy skin, and changes in skin color. Many triggers can make eczema worse, such as:
- Cold or dry air
- Sudden temperature changes
- Illnesses, such as colds or the flu
- Contact with chemicals and other irritants
- Perfumes, skin lotions or soaps (especially with added dye or fragrance)
- Contact with rough materials
- Allergies, including mold, pollen, dust mites or animals
- Dry skin and overexposure to water (excessive bathing or swimming)
Eczema is caused by a hypersensitive reaction in the skin. People who suffer from eczema may be missing certain proteins in their skin, which causes this sensitivity. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is most common in infants and young children. Most patients develop eczema before the age of five. It can start as early as two months, and many people do outgrow it by adulthood.
How can Eczema be treated?
Taking care of your skin at home is the best first step and may reduce the need for medical treatment. Avoid scratching at the skin. Itching and dryness may be relieved with gentle moisturizers without alcohol or fragrances (those formulated for sensitive skin may work best). Topical steroid creams and antihistamines may also be needed. For severe disease light treatments or systemic (oral) therapy may be necessary.