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Eczema & Psoriasis
Practical Eczema advice
Eczema, or dermatitis, is a skin condition which causes inflammation, dryness and itchiness.
It can develop anywhere on the body, but is often common around areas where skin is prone to creasing, especially the front of the elbows and behind the knees.
There is no cure for eczema, but products are available which can help reduce the discomfort and itchiness associated with the condition.
Common symptoms of Eczema
Symptoms of eczema can differ depending on the type of eczema, and how severe it is.
The most common eczema symptoms affecting skin are: redness and inflammation, dryness, cracking, itchiness, and thickened 'scaly' areas.
There are several different types of eczema:
- Atopic eczema, the most common, usually runs in the family.
- Irritant eczema can be caused by skin contact with an irritant (such as washing powder)
- Allergic eczema is caused by contact with an allergen (like perfume or nickel).
- Seborrhoeic eczema usually affects skin near hair follicles and oil glands (such as the eyebrows or nose).
- Varicose eczema affects the skin covering varicose veins.
- Discoid eczema can also occur in later life.
Eczema often causes skin to become unbearably itchy - but scratching can cause bleeding and will only make the problem worse. It could even lead to infection.
Very young children can be more susceptible to eczema, especially as their skin may be prone to reactions caused by irritants or allergens. For newborns, the symptoms of eczema may present early as nappy rash. Nappy rash usually affects the area where baby wears a nappy, and is caused by skin coming into contact with urine and faeces: if similar red, itchy skin patches develop elsewhere, it may be eczema, rather than nappy rash.
Practical Eczema treatments
Eczema is not contagious and cannot be passed to another person. Nor can it be cured. Around 16 out of every 100 children suffers eczema at some point. Around 60% of child sufferers will grow out of the condition.
There are a range of products available which can help make the symptoms of eczema more bearable. With management, eczema treatments can help control the inflammation, itchiness and soreness associated with dermatitis.
Consulting a GP will help establish what type of eczema you have, and the best ways to treat it. There are several things you can do to take care of your eczema to help mitigate discomfort.
The hardest of these is to refrain from scratching itchy skin. Scratching may bring temporary relief, but can cause the area to become infected, which is extremely painful. It may harm the skin, cause the affected area to spread, and can cause skin to harden and become 'scaly'.
If your child is struggling to stop themselves scratching, it may be worth getting some anti-scratch gloves. Pinching the skin can also bring similar relief to a scratch - without the risk of infection.
Eczema symptoms can be made worse by triggers, too - so it's worth trying to avoid things which may cause a flare up. These include detergents and soaps, some man-made clothing materials (such as polyester) wool and excessive heat.
Emollients, such as aqueous cream, are available as an alternative to soap (avoid using bubble bath). Different types of emollient are available: creams and lotions are better for red, inflamed areas; ointments may be better suited to dry, but not inflamed, skin patches. Always do a patch test first & leave for 24 hours to see if there is an adverse reaction
GPs are able to prescribe stronger treatments if self-care fails to reduce the discomfort of eczema.