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Definition of Eczema

October 12, 2013

Eczema is a Greek word that means ‘to boil over’.  It is a skin inflammation that is itchy and characterized as well by other symptoms like:

  • Evidence of secondary infection like crusty deposits or weeping
  • Blisters or lumps in the affected regions
  • Dry skin that thickens in areas of the skin that have been scratched
  • Redness on the affected areas of skin

Eczema is further classified into smaller subgroups according to the factors that mainly cause the eczema in the individual. However, the appearance and symptoms in the skin can also look the same in the different types of eczema. The classification of eczema may not be as accurate as one wants it to be since each person can develop eczema from different causes or factors. Nevertheless, the treatment approaches of the different types of eczema can all be the same.

The basic differences are the individual’s unique responses to the factors causing his eczema.  If, for example, his eczema has got to do with his exposure to a chemical irritant at work, protection or removal of this irritant will become an integral part in the management of his eczema as opposed to another individual who is not affected by this exposure.

Types of Eczema

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. It usually strikes people who also suffer from:

  • Problems in the barrier of the skin that causes moisture to seep out and germs to set into the skin
  • Family history of hay fever, asthma or eczema
  • Hay fever or asthma

Atopic dermatitis often develops early in life. It can set in during infancy or childhood but it can also develop at any stage in life.

Parts of the body affected by this disorder include:

  • Back of the knees
  • Inner elbows
  • Feet
  • Hands
  • Face

Continuous scratching on the affected areas can cause the skin to turn and red and thicken. Persistent scratching can also cause wounds that can develop infection. Products considered irritants for many people that worsen the symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:

  • Household chemicals
  • Coarse clothing
  • Perfumed soap

Dust mites, certain foods and other allergens can also worsen the symptoms.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis has two forms:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant contact dermatitis

Both these forms can arise when a substance damages the skin. Frequent hand washing and certain chemicals are some of the factors that can cause contact dermatitis.  Things like poison ivy, cosmetics and nickel are some of the more typical ones that can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis, on the other hand, is caused by repeated skin contact with an irritating substance.

The hands are the most susceptible parts of the body that can develop contact dermatitis.

Dyshidrotic Dermatitis

This is a form of eczema that targets the hands and feet. Dyshidrotic dermatitis develops from unknown causes and is characterized by extreme itching then skin blisters which can turn into scaly patches a few weeks later. Occasionally the skin of the fingers or hands develops deep cracks from this condition. Dyshidrotic dermatitis can become painful and chronic.

Nummular Dermatitis

Men are more prone to this skin condition than women. Men often develop nummular dermatitis before they reach their mid-50s; women are likely to develop this condition during their teens or early adulthood.

This type of dermatitis is characterized by red marks that look like coins appearing usually on the:

  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Forearms
  • Back of the hands
  • Legs

Nummular dermatitis stems from unknown causes but risk factors for this skin problem can include exposure to:

  • Metals especially nickel
  • Chemicals like formaldehyde
  • Dry, cold air

Neurodermatitis

This eczema type is characterized by itchy skin spots that develop from continuous scratching.  Neurodermatitis can develop in the person’s:

  • Behind and inside of the ear
  • Ankles
  • Wrists
  • Scalp
  • Genitals
  • Back or sides of the neck

Because of consistent scratching, neurodermatitis can turn into a skin outbreak that is albeit limited in scope; however, the affected skin can become extremely wrinkled and thicken and sometimes infection can develop in the affected areas.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

More popularly known as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis in infants usually develops in the scalp while adults may develop this common type of eczema in the:

  • Center of their chest
  • Groin
  • Parts behind the ears
  • Sides of the nose

Seborrheic dermatitis can make the skin fall off in flakes.  An overgrowth of a certain type of yeast is one suspected factor in causing this skin condition residing in the aforementioned parts of the body.  Overproduction and the immediate shedding of skin on the scalp is also another cause.  People with autoimmune disease may find it hard to treat this harmless condition.

Stasis Dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis can occur when the veins in lower legs of people are not strong enough to transport blood back to the heart. This type of eczema causes crusting and weeping of the skin and can develop quickly. Eventually, stasis dermatitis can lead to the development of brown stains in the skin after a certain period of time.

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