Eczema or eczematous dermatitis is a general term that describes any rash, or inflammation of the skin which is red, itchy and scaly. It can be used to describe contact dermatitis, such as poison ivy, nummular eczema, which is infected eczema, atopic dermatitis which is hereditarily determined, often associated with a history of asthma or dyshydrotic eczema which involves the palms and soles and appear as clear water filled bumps under the skin.
Eczematous dermatitis can range between being wet or vesicular to being dry or lichenified. It is a common skin disorder of both males and females. It is comprised of an itchy, scaly, red rash of the skin that can become swollen and cracked, and at times bleed. Areas of repeated scratching or rubbing may show thickened skin with prominent skin lines and hyperpigmentation.
Eczema is often recurrent due to a process known as the itch-scratch cycle; where the patient develops increased rash due to scratching, which in turn leads to further itching and therefore more scratching and thus spread of the rash and resultant infection of the skin. Eczema is often referred to as the itch that rashes, rather than the rash that itches. That is because the itch almost always precedes the development of the rash.It is important to see a dermatologist who can recommend topical and or oral medication to control your symptoms, and prevent scratching and infection of the skin. Without treatment, this condition can last up to months, and even years.
Atopic eczema, although the cause of this condition is unknown, this is a chronic disorder that relapses due to various triggers, including pollutants, season, clothing materials, emotional stress, pollen, dust mites, and certain foods. Atopic eczema has been known to run in families and is usually associated with asthma, hay fever, and allergic rhinitis or inflammation of the nasal airways.
The diagnosis of any of the eczematous rashes can be made clinically by having a medical professional take a careful history and assessing your rash and symptoms. Often the eczematous rash may be confused with other rashes with a similar appearance. It is therefore important for the medical professional to establish the correct diagnosis, which can be determined by performing a skin biopsy, taking blood tests, and or taking a bacterial or fungal culture of the skin. Establishing the correct diagnosis can save in the cost of medication, avoid frustration, and speed resolution of the condition.
Besides using medications prescribed to you by your health professional, it is important to avoid hot water in the bath or shower, which can produce more symptoms of itch. A non-soap product such as Dove or Cetaphil bar should be used. Soaps are degreasers and will strip oil off the skin. Dryness of the skin, leads to itch. The skin should be pat dry, then an emollient skin cream applied to seal in the moisture obtained from the bath or shower. Wearing 100% cotton clothing, and humidification of the home environment are beneficial. Oral antihistamines is essential in controlling scratching. Oral and or topical antibiotics and corticosteroids round out the treatment.
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