Eczema is a skin condition usually identified by red or dry patches that itch and worsen when scratched. A superficial inflammation of the skin primarily affecting the outer skin layer or epidermis, eczema appears differently on each person and can occur anywhere on the body. Due to intense itching, scratching produces a rash that shows up as a red patch covered with dry, flaky skin. This patch is capable of blistering which oozes fluid before eventually crusting over followed by scaling, thickening, or discoloration of the area involved.
The meaning of the word “eczema” can cause confusion. Many people use this word to refer to a common skin condition called atopic dermatitis. Eczema has many forms however with two main divisions—eczematous dermatitis which is caused by external factor and endogenous eczema which occurs without any obvious outside cause. Classification of endogenous eczema is based on its appearance and site. The word “eczema” also has a more general meaning as eczema can mean a family of skin conditions that causes the skin to become swollen, irritated, and itchy.
The five most common types of eczema are:
- Atopic is commonly found in childhood and sometimes associated with a family history of allergies.
- Nummular is characterized by small, well-defined areas also called nummular eczema or nummular dermatitis.
- Pompholyx, which is found on the hands and feet.
- Seborrheic or Seborrheic Dermatitis is characterized by scaly plaques in areas of the greatest sebum production.
- Stasis Dermatitis develops on the legs in association with poor circulation.
Many skin conditions are considered a type of eczema. Diaper rash and the rash that many people get after coming in contact with poison ivy are other types of eczema.
Eczema is sometimes referred to as “the itch that rashes,” by medical professionals because usually the first symptom of eczema is intense itching, which causes a rash to appear that is red and bumpy. No matter which part of the skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy and sometimes the itching will start before the rash appears. When scratched, the inflammation oozes and becomes crusty and in adults, this itching produces thickened plaques of skin. Painful cracks develop over time and although the rash can be located anywhere on the body, it is mostly found on the neck, arms, and legs.
Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker. In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that occurs mainly on the face and scalp, but patches may appear anywhere.
Call Comprehensive Dermatology Center of Pasadena today for an examination of your skin or to consult with us if you have been diagnosed with skin cancer.
At Comprehensive Dermatology Center of Pasadena, our goal in treating your eczema is to relieve and prevent itching, which can lead to infection. We offer several treatment options such as prescribed steroidal creams or lotions to reduce itching and these should be applied when the skin is damp after bathing to help the skin retain moisture. If it is determined that you have a secondary bacterial infection complicating the rash, internal medications such as antibiotics may be prescribed as well. Other eczema treatments include antihistamines, tar treatments which are chemicals designed to reduce itching, phototherapy or therapy using ultraviolet light applied to the skin, and immunomodulators for people whose condition doesn’t respond to other treatments.
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