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Eczema: Signs, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment
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Eczema: Signs, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

Eczema can be treated with topical medications
Eczema
Representational image | Illustration by Syalima Das

Eczema or dermatitis is a non-contagious condition characterized by dry, red, itchy and scaly skin. 

Our skin has a protective layer of water, fats and oil that act as a protective barrier against damage and infection. This layer also provides moisture, which is necessary for healthy skin.
In someone suffering from eczema, the skin does not produce enough oil and fats, and loses its ability to retain water, and thereby the efficiency of the protective barrier declines. 

This loss of water from the skin also opens the pores in our skin, which causes a loss of moisture from deeper layers. This also allows bacteria or irritants to enter, and the damage leads to red, itchy, cracked and inflamed skin. 

Sometimes irritants and allergens cause reactions when they come in contact with skin, which can also cause eczema. 

Signs and symptoms 

The severity of eczema varies from person to person. In mild cases, there could be small patches of dry skin with occasional itching, but in more severe cases inflammation of the skin will be widespread with constant itching. 

It is often seen that the skin affected by eczema becomes darker or lighter after recovery, with the skin tone getting back to normal in some time. 

The typical signs and symptoms of eczema are: 

  • Dry skin 
  • Redness of the skin 
  • Swelling 
  • Itchiness 
  • Scaly or cracked skin 
  • Blistering 
  • Bleeding due to intense itching 

Causes 

Eczema broadly has two types and there is a combination of factors responsible for them. 

  • Atopic eczema is more prevalent in children and is hereditary in nature. A child might be genetically predisposed to react to certain environmental factors that cause eczema. Moreover, dry skin in eczematic people also increases the chance of a reaction to an unknown trigger, causing itchy and inflamed skin 
  • Contact eczema is caused either when a substance damages the outer layer of the skin or by exposure to an allergen that causes the immune system to function in a way that affects the skin 

Diagnosis 

A thorough evaluation of signs and symptoms, physical exams and medical/family history by a doctor is required to diagnose the type and severity of the eczema. 

Treatment 

Doctors can prescribe certain topical medications to soothe and reduce the inflammation of the skin. Some of the widely used medication classes are: 

  • Emollients (medications that soften and soothe the skin) 
  • Topical steroids (used to reduce inflammation, redness and itching) 

Sources 

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