What is eczema?

What is Eczema? Did you know there are different types of  Eczema that produce signs and symptoms  from an acute and fiery rash to blisters which itch and burn?

Before we dive into explaining what is eczema, the National Institutes of Health estimates that 15 million people in the United States alone have some form of eczema. About 10 percent to 20 percent of all infants have eczema; however, in nearly half of these children, the disease will improve greatly by the time they are between five and 15 years of age. Others will have some form of the disease throughout their lives.

Eczema is a skin disease classified as dermatitis.  It is characterized by the inflammation of the epidermis or top layer of the skin.  It is often manifested in the form of small, multiple red rashes that may crack, blister, flake, scale, or ooze.  Because rashes can sometimes be dry and itchy, scratching can sometimes cause them to bleed.  The tearing of the skin can then lead to scarring and skin discoloration.

What is eczema caused by?

So what is eczema related to? Causes of eczema cannot be pinned down to a concrete list because triggering factors vary from person to person but generally most cases of eczema are caused by a defective conversion of linoleic acid to inflammatory prostaglandins. Eczema is more common in families with a history of allergies and asthma.

What types of eczema are there?

There are various types of eczema, with slightly different causes and symptoms. All types of eczema cause itching and redness and some will blister, weep or peel. It typically affects the insides of the elbows, backs of the knees, and the face, but some eczema types can cover most of the body. Here are the types of eczema.

1. Atopic eczema

This is a kind of eczema that appears at an early age. It is associated with allergies including hay fever and asthma and first presents itself in susceptible children as more severe form of diaper rash and cradle cap, affecting the face as well. It usually improves on its own by the age of four, but sometimes reappears with stress during adolescence and adulthood. The elbow and knee creases, face, hands and soles of the feet are the most vulnerable areas. It is the most common type of eczema in the human population.

2. Contact Eczema

Contact dermatitis is a reaction that can occur when the skin comes in contact with certain substances, which can cause skin inflammation. Irritants are substances that cause burning, itching or redness. Common irritants include solvents, industrial chemicals, detergents, fumes, tobacco smoke, paints, bleach, woolen fabrics, acidic foods, astringents and other alcohol (excluding cetyl alcohol) containing skin care products, and some soaps and fragrances. Allergens are usually animal or vegetable proteins from foods, pollens, or pets.

Contact dermatitis is most often seen around the hands or parts of the body that touched the irritant/allergen. There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic.

  • Irritant contact dermatitis can be caused by
    prolonged contact with mild irritants such as soaps, detergents, chemicals and solvents
  • Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to a substance or material to which you have become allergic.

3. Hand eczema

This type of eczema affects hands and its usually caused by irritants. The irritant nature of some chemicals means that hand eczema is particularly common in people with jobs involving cleaning, catering, hairdressing, healthcare and mechanical work.

4. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition. In babies, it tends to mostly affect the scalp and is known as “cradle cap”. In Older children and adults it can also affect the face and upper chest in some cases. It commonly affects the face or neck around the nose and at the scalp line.

5. Nummular Eczema

The word “nummular” comes from the Latin word for “coin” as the spots can look coin-shaped on the skin. They tend to be well-defined, but may be very itchy or not itchy at all. They can be very dry and scaly or can become wet and open. Nummular eczema appears typically on arms, legs and chest and mostly affects adults.

6. Neurodermatitis

Also known as lichen simplex chronicus, this form of eczema is a reaction to repeatedly scratching or rubbing the skin in one area over time. Like in atopic dermatitis, the itchy areas can become thickened with enhanced skin discoloration on the wrist, the ankle, groin or the back of the neck.. Unlike atopic dermatitis, the specific patches tend to always be present while the rest of the skin remains healthy.

7. Stasis Dermatitis

This type of eczema occurs on the calves, ankles and feet in people who have varicose veins or other conditions that lead to poor blood circulation in the lower legs. Instead of the normal blood flow through the veins back to the heart, varicose veins or a problem with the valves of the veins allows for pressure to develop. This pressure results in fluid leaking out of the veins and into the skin, which then causes itching, swelling, skin darkening and scaling.

Best treatment for eczema

What is eczema best treated with? While there might not be one best treatment for eczema, more and more people are turning away from the conventional medicines to alternative medicines such as herbal remedies. As with any alternative method in treating a skin disease or disorder, it is important for patients to carefully discuss their options with a medical professional.  Some herbs have a high level of toxicity and while effective, may still lead to health complications if not used properly. Here are some of my favorite herb remedies:

  • After bathing, gently dry well, then apply eczema ointment such as chickweed, calendula or aloe vera cream, olive oil or evening primrose oil to help restore moisture and promote healing.
  • In case of eczema based on a nervous condition, take calming teas of lemon balm, peppermint and valerian.
  • Fresh juice of burdock leaf, stinging nettle, dandelion or chickweed to cleanse the body internally. Take 1Tbsp of juice daily.
  • In the evening, rub the affected areas with St. John's wort oil.
  • Allergic eczema can be relieved by bathing with camomile, chickweed, witch hazel, horsetail, comfrey or golden-seal: dissolve 2-3 tbsp. of herb for each quart of hot water and bathe skin.

Best Tip:So what is eczema doing to your self image? You don't have to worry about the scars that it leaves on your body and face apply aloe vera and see how this herb does miracles. It heals scars and  boosts your self confidence.  Try it and you won't be disappointed.

Herbal Remedies>Eczema>What Is Eczema

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