The “Skinny” on Eczema

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Image source: http://healthmag.gr/

BY: ALLISON BROWN

According to WebMD, “The skin is the largest organ of the body, with a total area of about two square meters. The skin protects us from microbes and the elements, helps regulate body temperature and permits the sensations of touch, heat and cold. This article will provide information on one of the conditions that can occur when there are issues with the skin.

Eczema is a recurring, long-term inflammation of the skin, and there is no cure. It usually begins in childhood, appearing within the first six months, and can continue through adolescence into adulthood. Often, people suffering from eczema or parents of children with eczema don’t understand the disease or how to manage the condition. 

Eczema can be different for everyone who has it.  But there are common symptoms such as dry skin, sore rashes, and intense itch. It can be very uncomfortable attempting to manage eczema and to keep the ‘flare ups’ under control.  In the most severe cases, serious health problems can affect the quality of life and interfere with normal everyday activities. (http://www.eczemacanada.ca/en/What-Is-Eczema)  Like I have always said, working collaboratively with your health practitioner; whether nurse practitioner, doctor, dermatologist, and or naturopath will help to devise a plan of care that will help manage this condition.

 Atopic dermatitis is only one of this group and doctors usually refer to it as simply ‘eczema’ because it is the most common of this group. The constant itch that goes along with eczema makes it very different from any other skin condition. Eczema is often called the ‘itch that rashes’ rather than the ‘rash that itches’ because the itch starts long before the rash appears. The itch leads to a lot of scratching and that’s when the red, raw rash appears. The signs and symptoms of eczema vary from person to person. It can range from mild – where the skin is dry, hot and itchy – to its most severe – when the skin becomes broken, raw, and bleeding. (Canadian Dermatology Association. What is eczema? www.dermatology.ca)

Whether you or a family member is suffering from eczema, it is important to recognize the following signs and symptoms of this skin condition: usually appears before five years of age, maybe caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and immune system factors, often accompanied by asthma and/or hay fever, very itchy, inflamed, dry skin, and or skin that is easily infected. (Canadian Dermatology Association. What is eczema? www.dermatology.ca)

Skin affected by eczema is often dry and cracked, the protective outer layer of skin damaged. As a result, skin affected by eczema loses a lot of water, which interferes with the natural healing process. (Cork MJ. The importance of skin barrier function. Journal of Dermatological Treatment (1997) 8;S7-S13). Feeling too hot or too cold, exposure to certain household products like soap or detergent, or coming into contact with animal dander may cause an outbreak. Upper respiratory infections or colds may also be triggers. Stress may cause the condition to worsen. (http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/atopic-dermatitis-eczema#1)

Treatment for eczema may consist of over-the-counter products, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream, or prescription creams and ointments containing corticosteroids, are often prescribed to lessen inflammation. In addition, if the affected area becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection-causing bacteria.

Other treatments include antihistamines to lessen severe itching, tar treatments (chemicals designed to reduce itching), phototherapy (therapy using ultraviolet light applied to the skin), and the drug cyclosporine for people whose condition doesn’t respond to other treatments. Doctors prescribe short-term use of Elidel and Protopic only after other available eczema treatments have failed in adults and children over the age of two due to cancer risk. It should not be used for kids under age two (http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/atopic-dermatitis-eczema#2-5).

I hope that the above information has “shed” some light on one of the many skin conditions that people are coping with so that you can share this information with others. Again, thank you for the opportunity to share information with you.  Stay well and continue to be your own advocate in health.  Dedicated to Alanna Zelau.

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