What is eczema?
Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a dry skin condition. It is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes in many different forms. It is not contagious so you cannot catch it from someone else. Eczema is a general term for many types of skin inflammation (dermatitis). The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis (sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably). However, there are many different forms of eczema.
Doctors do not know the exact cause of eczema, but a defect of the skin that impairs its function as a barrier, possibly combined with an abnormal function of the immune system, are believed to be important factors. Studies have shown that in people with atopic dermatitis there are gene defects that lead to abnormalities in certain proteins (such as filaggrin) that are important in maintaining the barrier function of normal skin.
Some forms of eczema can be triggered by substances that come in contact with the skin, such as soaps, cosmetics, clothing, detergents, jewelry, or sweat. Environmental allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) may also cause outbreaks of eczema. Changes in temperature or humidity, or even psychological stress, can lead to outbreaks of eczema in some people.
- Skin inflammation: swelling of the skin surface and the underlying tissues.
- Redness: caused by widening of the blood vessels in the skin and an associated increase in blood flow to the affected area.
- Itching: can vary in intensity and leads to inflammation that can result in infection.
- Dry, scaly skin: depends on the individuals skin type, but dry skin can often predispose a person to the development of eczema.
- Pale skin and loss of pigmentation: due to reduced blood flow caused by eczema’s disruptive effect on the skin’s circulation.
- Thick leathery skin: over time the skin can become thicker due to constant scratching. The skin tries to protect itself from this by producing more keratin (the tough protective protein found in skin cells).
It can be allergic (soaps, detergents, etc.) or endogenous like atopic, seborrhoeic and Neurodermatitis They are characterized by redness & ill-defined swelling, blister like eruptions, cracking, discharges, scaling, itching. People having it for a long time can have thickening of the skin, fissures, and pigmentations.