My friend's four-month-old baby has eczema which started right after she was born. No matter what they do, they are not able to keep the baby from scratching her forehead and cheeks. She constantly rubs her feet on the sheets which they think is to scratch herself. They tried every medicine that the doctors prescribed but to no avail. After trying out so many medicines, ointments and creams they resorted to alternate medicines and household remedies. We have yet to see the results of this switch.
Eczema is also called dermatitis or atopic dermatitis (most common form), meaning "inflammation of the skin." It can come at any age but most commonly in children less than four or five years old. Most of the time it does go away as the child grows up but could come back or remain in some children. A family history of allergies and hay fever seem to play a role in the children getting this condition. It seems more common in girls than in boys regardless of races. This is not a contagious condition but relates mostly to genetics.
There are several causes for the onset of eczema, including impairment of the skin barrier due to a defect in the skin or an abnormal immune system. Eczema is linked to a genetic defect causing the lack of a protein called "flaggrin" which protects the skin. Environmental conditions such as hot and humid weather, and other things like soaps, cosmetics, detergents, jewelry and sweat can also contribute to the flaring of this condition in most people.
The symptoms of eczema include:
1--dry skin, redness on the skin, itching, burning
2--blisters, oozing lesions, scaly skin or thickening and crusting of the skin due to itching or scratching.
The most common sites on the body that are affected by this condition are the face, neck, elbows, knees, and ankles. For infants, the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp and neck are the common places. Eczema could last for a few hours or continue to some days or even years.
There are several types of eczema including:
1--Atopic eczema: this is the most common type of this condition which could become chronic. The usual symptoms are itching and inflammation and it tends to flare up on and off sometimes over the years. Environmental factors as well as use of household items such as scented soaps, detergents, and nickel in jewelry could cause these symptoms. Most of the time this condition is acquired in infants by the first year which is why it is called "Infantile Eczema". Family history plays a strong role in this type of eczema.
2--Contact eczema: this condition comes from acids, cleaning agents, chemicals, soaps, jewelry and poison ivy. Symptoms include redness, itching, burning, etc.
3--Seborrheic eczema: This condition usually runs in the families. It is usually associated with inflammation of the skin that shows as yellowish, oily, scaly patches on the scalp and face. It often comes along with dandruff. Babies show the signs of this condition on their cheeks and nasal folds. Other causes could be infrequent shampooing, oily skin and stress.
4--Neuro-dermatitis: This comes from insect bites. It is more common in women. The common sites include the lower legs, head, wrists and forearms. As a result of this condition the skin becomes leathery and thickened. Stress is believed to be another cause for neuro dermatitis.
5--Stasis Dermatitis: This condition is more common in the elderly and middle aged population. It usually shows up on the lower legs with itching, redness, discoloration, blistering and oozing lesions. Most people with stasis dermatitis end up with ulcers and edema in the lower legs. It is associated with the valves of the veins in the lower legs and is also known as "varicose eczema".
6--Dyshidrotic Eczema: This condition is more commonly seen in the spring and summer seasons when the weather is warm affecting people of any age or gender. It starts with irritation in the palms and soles of the feet as clear, deep blisters with itching and burning.
How Eczema is Diagnosed
A physical exam is the first thing to be done when eczema persists in the patients along with asking about family history, contact and environmental information. In severe cases of eczema, a biopsy is the last resort to diagnose and to find out what kind of condition it is. Allergy tests are done which include patch tests and blood tests. Lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment in preventing inflammation and itching caused by eczema. Medicines such as cortico steroids, antihistamines such as Benadryl and oral medications like prednisone are used for the treatment of moderate to severe cases of eczema. Body lotions, creams and ointments that are more oil based, with less water content are used to hydrate the body to relieve the patient from itching and scratching. Patient should be instructed not to over bathe since water tends to increase the inflammation and dries the body faster. Immunosuppressants and ultra violet light therapy are also some other ways of treating patients with eczema. Bathing with lukewarm water with mild soap is another method to try to prevent this condition. Loose clothes are to be worn, and if you can, choose those that are pure cotton for comfort. Cool compresses are to be used to relieve the patient of burning and itching. Washing hands frequently and using gloves could help prevent the spread of eczema to other areas of the body along with being away from hot and humid temperatures.
Alternative methods of treatment include using honey, salt, natural light therapy, zinc creams, baking soda, turmeric, humidifiers, coconut oil and a paste made out of sandal wood and camphor. Using neem leaves and turmeric paste, shea butter, aloe vera, and vitamin E oil are some other home remedies that are used. While all the precautionary measures can help people prevent falling prey to this condition, nothing can compensate for the benefits seen from exercising, meditation and stress relieving practices. This is because stress is often the major contributing factor for eczema as it is with any other health conditions, and because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.