What is Eczema?

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

Your Eczema Questions Answered

It can be confusing dealing with skin problems, knowing exactly what you have, why you have it and how to treat it. There are so many words thrown around, eczema, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, sensitive skin, steroids, triggers... and the list goes on.

This post aims to answer all the questions you have. If we've missed anything, please ask us in the comments and one of our experts we will answer.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough. Blisters may sometimes occur. When eczema worsens it is called an eczema flare. Usually there is no single factor for an eczema flare.

3 hands one with mild eczema, medium eczema and severe eczema
Mild Eczema - Medium Eczema - Severe Eczema

What are the symptoms of eczema?

  • Redness

  • Peeling

  • Flaking

  • Itchiness

  • Blisters

  • Inflammation

  • Extremely dry skin

  • Cracked skin

What are the common types of eczema?

The two most common types of eczema are Atopic Dermatitis and Contact Dermatitis. In many instances, the difference between Atopic Dermatitis and Contact Dermatitis is quite obvious. In other cases, not so obvious. Some patients can even have both atopic and contact dermatitis at the same time, which is even more difficult to assess. While there are many similarities between these two common conditions, there are some important differences especially when it comes to the causes of dermatitis.

image of difference between atopic and contact dermatitis
Atopic VS Contact Dermatitis

Other types of eczema include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a skin reaction following contact with a substance or allergen that the immune system recognises as foreign.

  • Dyshidrotic eczema: This is an irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. It is characterised by blisters.

  • Neurodermatitis: This forms scaly patches of skin on the head, forearms, wrists, and lower legs. It is caused by a localised itch, such as an insect bite.

  • Nummular eczema: These show as circular patches of irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly, and itchy.

  • Stasis dermatitis: This is a skin irritation of the lower leg usually related to circulatory problems

What causes eczema?

The specific cause of eczema remains unknown, but it is believed to develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Children are more likely to develop eczema if a parent has had the condition or another atopic disease.If both parents have an atopic disease, the risk is even greater.

Environmental factors are also known to bring out the symptoms of eczema, such as:

  • Irritants: These include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats, or vegetables.

  • Allergens: Dust mites, pets, pollens, mold, and dandruff can lead to eczema.

  • Microbes: These include bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.

  • Hot and cold temperatures: Very hot or cold weather, high and low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can bring out eczema.

  • Foods: Dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat can cause eczema flare-ups.

  • Stress: This is not a direct cause of eczema but can make symptoms worse.

  • Hormones: Women can experience increased eczema symptoms at times when their hormone levels are changing, for example during pregnancy and at certain points in the menstrual cycle.

arm with red patch and itchy skin
Itchy Skin is a common symptom of exczema

What triggers eczema?

Everyone has their own personal triggers. So it is important to keep an eczema diary and write down what you have been in contact with through out the day, eat, how you felt in order to figure out your own personal triggers. Some of the common triggers are listed below.

  • Dry skin.

  • Scratching (night gloves and clipped fingernails may be needed by young children).

  • Viral or bacterial infections.

  • Swimming in chlorinated swimming pools.

  • Playing in sand, particularly sandpits.

  • Sitting directly on carpets or grass.

  • Inhalant allergens in spring and summer, which may also be due to pollen sensitivity.

  • Food intolerances to artificial colours and preservatives.

  • Irritants such as perfumes, soap, chemicals, woollen or synthetic fabrics.

  • Temperature changes, such as overly heated rooms.

  • Stress, which can make it worse, but eczema is not a psychological condition.

  • Contact with animals or house dust mite allergen.

  • Constant exposure to water, soap, grease, food or chemicals, that can damage the protective barrier function of the skin. Once the protective barrier of the skin is lost, eczema frequently develops. 

What is the best way to treat eczema?

Speaking to your doctor, dermatologist or pharmacist is the first step to help treat your eczema. They can recommend the best treatment method for you.

However, there are also many techniques and habits that can be taken on to help reduce the severity, manage symptoms and prevent eczema, such as:

  • Taking lukewarm baths

  • Applying moisturiser within 3 minutes of bathing to "lock in" moisture

  • Moisturising every day with product that contain no irritants such as the Krem Relief Range

  • Wearing cotton and soft fabrics, and avoiding rough, scratchy fibers and tight-fitting clothing

  • Using a mild soap or a non-soap cleanser when washing

  • Air drying or gently patting skin dry with a towel, rather than rubbing the skin dry after bathing

  • Where possible, avoiding rapid changes of temperature and activities that make you sweat

  • Learning and avoiding individual eczema triggers

  • Using a humidifier in dry or cold weather

  • Keeping fingernails short to prevent scratching from breaking the skin

What should you avoid if you have eczema?

There are many things to avoid such as:

  • Synthetic clothing

  • Hot showers

  • Soap

  • Preservatives

  • Excess water use

  • Overheating

  • Wearing sweaty or wet clothing

  • Identified food triggers

  • Skin care products with chemicals, preservatives or fragrances.Opt for a product free from all irritants such as Krem Relief Intensive Krem

  • Being overly cold or overly hot

  • Any other personal triggers that are likely to set off your eczema

Is eczema contagious?

No! Eczema is NOT contagious. This is a common misconception.

infographic saying eczema is not contagious
Eczema is not contagious

Is eczema more common in children or adults?

Eczema is a chronic health problem that affects many people of all ages, but is most common in infants:

  • Infantile eczema occurs in around 20% of children under two years of age, and usually starts in the first six months of life. Infantile eczema usually improves significantly between the ages of two to five years.

  • Childhood eczema may follow infantile eczema, or start from two to four years of age. Rashes and dryness are usually found in the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, across the ankles and may also involve the face, ears and neck. This form of eczema usually improves with age.

  • Adult eczema is similar to that of older children with areas of very dry, itchy, reddened skin at the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees. It can cause rough, hard and thickened skin, which may also have weeping areas. Although the condition tends to improve in middle life, and is unusual in the elderly, it can still occur.

child using a krem relief bottle and moisturising
Eczema is common among children

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