Eczema is a medical term that is attached to a vast amount of skin conditions. It is also often referred to as dermatitis. Many medical terms derive from Greek words. “Eczema” is Greek, and it simply means an eruption. When applied to define a skin condition, it is referring to the rashes, redness, bumps, crusting and flaking commonly associated with this condition. “Derma” means skin. The suffix “itis” means inflammation. Together, it simply means inflamed skin.
Common Symptoms of Eczema
Any irritation of the skin that manifests as a rash, redness, dry area, cracking skin, bumps, blisters, crusty areas, flaking of dead skin cells and areas that seep clear fluid are lumped in the medical category of eczema. However, the cause of the eczema, or dermatitis, helps to further define the condition so that proper treatment options may be pursued.
One trait common to most any type of eczema, regardless of cause, is that it is very likely to be very itchy. A problem with the itchiness is that it usually leads to incessant scratching. The act of scratching then often leads to a secondary infection of the skin.
Acute or Chronic Eczema
Eczema can range from a temporary condition to a chronic one. For example, eczema caused by exposure to something that one is allergic to will likely resolve once the allergen is removed. When an external allergen such as a new laundry soap or poison ivy triggers eczema symptoms, it would be diagnosed as contact dermatitis, and it be expected to resolve once exposure to the allergen ceases.
Chronic eczema would be associated as a symptom of other disease conditions such as an infection with the herpes simplex virus that causes eczema herpeticum. Celiac disease as well as some other digestive problems can also manifest with chronic eczema symptoms. Mutation in the genes that produce filaggrin (a protein) can predispose individuals to getting a severe form of eczema known as ichthyosis vulgaris.
Eczema Treatment Options
The most commonly prescribed treatments for symptoms of eczema are corticosteroid creams as well as ointments and moisturizers. Steroid creams and ointments are available in strengths from the mild over-the-counter hydrocortisone to the potent prescription clobetasol propionate. Doctors may even prescribe oral steroid medications to get severe eczema under control. Some forms of chronic eczema may be treated with a daily immunosuppressant therapy medication to control and lessen the severity of symptoms.
Eczema is treated depending on the location of the outbreak and the cause. Seborrhoeic dermatitis (eczema) that manifests as flaking on the scalp is dandruff. It is often treated with shampoos that contain zinc or coal tar. Hand eczema, an often chronic condition, that causes splitting of the skin at fingertips and knuckles is often treated with steroid ointments and creams initially. It then responds well to barrier creams that contain dimethicone.
Other forms of eczema may respond well to light therapy where the affected skin is exposed to specific wavelengths of light for specific amounts of time. Those with eczema that responds well to light therapy may get relief with just a little controlled exposure to sunshine.
Eczema may be mild and temporary to a lifelong condition that flares in severity from time to time. Eczema may be caused by something that is touched, something in the diet, an underlying disease condition, or even miscoded genetics. It is therefore important to get a proper diagnosis of what the cause of the eczema is. It is not uncommon to need blood testing or even skin biopsies to rule out other causes in the effort to determine the actual cause of eczema.