Eczema refers to the inflammation or irritation of the epidermis or outer layer of the skin. It is a term broadly applied to a variety of skin conditions that cause skin dryness or recurring skin rashes. Symptoms of eczema are wide-ranging and may include: redness, swelling, itching, crusting, cracking, or bleeding of the skin. Eczema is non-contagious, affects 9-30% of Americans, and is particularly common among infants and young children. Some people outgrow eczema, while others experience symptoms on and off their entire lives. Though there is no known cure for eczema, proper treatment generally controls the disease for the majority of sufferers.
Though the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it is linked to an overactive response in the body’s immune system to certain triggers. People with a history of other allergies or asthma are more likely to suffer from eczema.
Treatment for eczema aims to relieve and prevent itching, which can lead to infection. Because dry skin often makes skin itchy, applying moisturizer after bathing when skin is damp is recommended.
Other treatment options include:
While eczema itself cannot be prevented, outbreaks can usually be avoided or the severity lessened by practicing simple guidelines. Patients are advised to abide by the following: moisturize skin frequently, reduce stress, avoid sweating or overheating, harsh soaps, scratchy clothing, sudden changes in temperature, and environmental triggers such as pollen, mold or dust.