What is Eczema
Eczema is a somewhat general term used to describe a number of common skin conditions in which the primary symptom is excessive itching. Eczema skin conditions are also associated with symptoms of swelling, redness, cracked skin, and other irritations. In most cases, the term eczema is used specifically to the common skin condition atopic dermatitis.
Although atopic dermatitis is the most common condition which eczema refers to, it's only one of the possible problems causing your symptoms. The term eczema can also refer to such skin conditions as hand dermatitis, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, nummular dermatitis, dandruff, and even diaper rash. The term can even be applied to the rash and irritation that occurs after coming in contact with plants such as poison ivy. Depending on the underlying cause of your eczema symptoms, the treatment for eczema can vary from basic topical treatments to more potent steroid treatments. That's why identifying what type of eczema you are experiencing is important.
Most patients can generally determine what type of eczema they are suffering from by comparing their affected skin with other pictures of eczema. However, your local dermatologist can also help diagnose what type you have with a quick physical examination.
What causes eczema?
The exact cause of eczema depends on the type of condition. Some eczema causes are clear, while other types do not have a known cause. In the case of irritant contact dermatitis, the symptoms are always triggered by frequent skin exposure to specific materials or products that irritate the skin. Usually, this means chemical items such as detergents or perfumes, or organic materials such as poison ivy. Like irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis is caused when a personal allergen comes in contact with your skin. Common allergens include pet dander, pollen, certain foods, or chemical products.
In other types of eczema, the cause is not always so clear. Many of the causes are speculated as a combination of different factors. Atopic dermatitis, for example, is believed to be caused by inheriting family genes that predispose a person to this condition, problems with the immune system, and something known as "barrier defect" which means water can be lost quickly through small gaps in the skin. These tiny gaps associated with barrier defect also create an environment for germs and other foreign contaminants to enter the body. Your body's reaction to this "invasion" is to break out with the symptoms of eczema.
Seborrheic dermatitis is another common form of eczema. This type is believed to develop when a combination of factors occur: inheritance of family genes, the presence of yeast on the skin surface, environmental climate, general health, and stress levels. Recent studies have brought to light that this type of eczema can occur more severely in people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). This study makes it clear that a relationship exists between seborrheic dermatitis and the state of the immune system.
Getting a proper eczema diagnosis is extremely important for patients to receive the right kind of care and treatment. You can start with self-diagnosis by comparing your skin condition with eczema pictures to help match the symptoms. In severe cases, you should always see your dermatologist for help. Your dermatologist can provide you with a professional diagnosis and recommend the best medical help and possible eczema cure.
If you and your dermatologist suspect that eczema is behind your symptoms, you will need to be able to give a complete medical history, describe your symptoms, and undergo a quick skin examination. In most cases, diagnosing eczema is a simple and straightforward process, but sometimes identifying the correct type and underlying condition can be a challenge. In order to receive the best eczema treatment, it helps to write down your symptoms of eczema and be able to describe them in detail to your dermatologist.
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