Eczema is the name for a group of inflammatory skin conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, red, swollen and cracked. It is often a chronic (long lasting) condition, though it can improve significantly and usually clears completely over time.
Eczema more commonly affects young children, often developing before the age of one, but can also affect teenagers and adults. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children in the UK is affected by eczema at some stage.
As there are also other types of eczema, identifying your eczema is key to getting the right treatment.
Eczema is the name for a group of medical conditions which causes the skin to become red, inflamed, itchy, cracked and rough. It can sometimes cause blisters which may cause the skin to weep, crust, scale and thicken. Eczema can affect any part of the body but most often appears on the hands, elbows, knees, face and scalp. People with eczema often find their condition varies between periods where it is less noticeable and more severe flare-ups.
Although there is no cure for eczema, some sufferers find that their symptoms improve without treatment, and doctors, nurses and other colleagues can help get the eczema better. Most patients learn how to control or clear their skin of eczema. Depending on the type of eczema, symptoms may improve within as little as two to three weeks.
There is a range of topical treatments (usually creams, but sometimes other treatments such as tablets), natural remedies and self-care options to help ease the symptoms of eczema. However, as eczema is a chronic condition, symptoms may return. Most children with eczema will ‘grow out of it’ and although many have the genetic likelihood to get eczema, most will eventually not show any eczema on their skin at all.
The most common and chronic type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema. When people commonly refer to eczema, they most often mean atopic dermatitis. Atopic eczema often appears with a red rash and causes the skin to become dry and itchy.
However, there are many different types of eczema. Knowing which eczema you suffer from is key to identifying the right treatment. If you are unsure what sort of eczema you have, we can help with:
Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is the most common form of eczema. It is identifiable by dry and itchy skin, often appearing with a red rash. Atopic eczema usually starts in childhood and gets milder or clears completely by adulthood.
The term ‘atopic’ is used to describe a group of conditions including eczema, hay-fever, asthma and allergic conjunctivitis. Atopic conditions are characterised by increased activity of the allergy side of the body’s immune system.
If your skin has developed eczema following close physical contact with a substance, you may have contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with irritants or allergens, leading to burning, itching and redness on the skin. Thankfully, the inflammation passes when the irritant or allergen is removed.
There are two types of contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by an immune system reaction to an allergen such as hair dye or nickel (for example earlobe dermatitis from costume jewelry). Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when a chemical or other substance (often soap or detergents) irritates your skin.
Successfully treating contact dermatitis depends on identifying and avoiding the cause of the condition. If you can avoid the irritant or substance that caused the reaction, the rash should clear within two to four weeks.
Discoid eczema, also referred to as nummular eczema and nummular dermatitis, is a common type of eczema. It can occur at any age but is more common in middle aged adults..
People with discoid eczema develop round, coin-shaped spots on their skin which can be very uncomfortable and itchy. Treatment is usually with anti-inflammatory creams (often steroid creams) mixed with anti-bacterials.
Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as pompholyx, is a type of eczema that causes small blisters to form on your fingers, hands and feet. Allergies, stress, moist hands and feet, or exposure to irritants such as detergents may trigger dyshidrotic eczema.
Dyshidrotic eczema can affect people at any age, but most often occurs in adults under the age of 40. It is also twice as common to affect women than men.
Also known as venous, gravitational or stasis eczema, varicose eczema is a long-term skin condition that affects the lower legs. Varicose eczema is most common in people with varicose veins, occurring when fluid leaks out of weakened veins into your skin, and thereby setting up an inflammatory reaction. This is why wherever possible varicose eczema is best treated and prevented by using compression stockings (as well as anti-inflammatory steroid creams at the start or during flares).
Varicose eczema can cause the lower part of the legs to swell up, varicose veins, open sores, swelling, redness, itching and pain.
Seborrheic eczema, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a chronic form of eczema appearing on the body where there are a lot of oil-producing glands. Seborrheic eczema causes itchy, red, scaly rashes to form on the scalp, eyelids, eyebrows, sides of the nose and behind the ears.
Seborrheic dermatitis can develop at any age including infants (referred to as “cradle cap”). It is slightly more common in men than in women. People with conditions that affect the immune system or nervous system are also believed to be at increased risk, such as HIV or AIDS or Parkinson’s disease.
Eczema is different for everyone. Depending on the type and severity of your condition, your symptoms may look different from another person with eczema. These symptoms may even appear in different places on your body at different times.
Although most common in children, eczema can also affect teenagers and adults. Eczema usually causes dry, itchy skin but more severe cases may have further complications. If you think you might have eczema, we can help with:
The symptoms of eczema may vary depending on the type and severity of your condition. However, common symptoms include:
Although most commonly appearing on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands or feet, eczema can affect other areas as well. Depending on what type of eczema you have, it is possible for symptoms to affect your eyelids, scalp, ears, nipples, lips, breasts, penis or neck.
Mild eczema is characterised by areas of dry skin and/or infrequent itching. It may also include small areas of redness, but not always.
Moderate eczema is characterised by areas of dry skin, frequent itching and redness. There may also be localised areas of skin thickening.
Severe eczema is characterised by widespread areas of dry skin, constant itching and large amounts of redness. There may also be skin thickening, bleeding, oozing, cracking and alteration of pigment.
You should seek medical advice for eczema if the itching and redness don’t fade over time, or if your condition starts to interfere with your day-to-day life. Most often your doctor will be able to identify if you have eczema by looking at your skin and asking a few simple questions.
Atopic eczema is a complex skin condition caused by a combination of different risk factors. People with eczema typically have weakened skin barriers and overly reactive inflammatory and allergic responses.
Other environmental factors can increase the risk of eczema, including contact with irritants and exposure to allergens. Susceptibility to atopic conditions may also run in your genes. If you are uncertain what causes eczema, we can help with:
The cause of eczema is not fully known, but it is believed to be an overactive response by the body’s immune system in a genetically predisposed individual. Quite often there may be an external reason why the eczema has appeared or made it worse, such as hair dye, detergents or contact with furry animals. It is also commonly found in families with a history of other atopic conditions, as well as people with defects in the skin barrier which may allow moisture out and germs in.
There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing eczema. Children who suffer from other atopic conditions, such as asthma or hay fever, or adults who develop these conditions before the age of 30, are more likely to have eczema.
Sometimes there is an external component to the eczema, such as an allergen (nickel is the most common) or irritant (often detergents).
Atopic eczema is often hereditary. If one or both of your parents have eczema, then it is more likely that you will develop it too. In addition, roughly one third of children with atopic eczema will develop other atopic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
Eczema is not contagious, meaning you cannot catch it from another person. While the exact cause of eczema is not currently known, it is believed to be a combination of genes and environmental triggers.
There are a number of environmental and biological factors which can increase the risk of atopic eczema flaring up. These include:
While each of the following factors can cause eczema to flare up, often no specific cause is identified.
There is currently no cure for atopic eczema, but there are methods to control it. Most children who suffer from atopic eczema will see it improve by their teens, with 60% of cases clearing completely. However, these people may continue to suffer from dry skin and so should avoid irritants such as soaps and detergents.
Depending on the type and severity of your eczema, different treatments are available. The most common type of eczema (atopic eczema) is usually treated with moisturisers and awareness of irritants. Other forms of eczema may require further guidance from your GP.
There is also a range of natural remedies, high street products and self-care techniques to help treat eczema. If you are unsure which treatment is best for you, we can help with:
A medical professional will usually recognise eczema simply by looking at your skin. It is rare for blood tests or skin tests to be necessary. Occasionally, the skin may need to be swabbed to check for viral or bacterial infections and sometimes allergy tests may be taken.
Most eczema treatments are topical, however, in more severe cases people may need to take oral medication as well. The most common eczema treatments are emollients (moisturisers), which should be applied regularly.
Applying emollients throughout the day helps the outer layer of your skin better shield against your environment. If your skin is particularly dry, you may have to apply moisturiser more frequently. Using soap substitute creams reduces the disruption to the skin barrier from soapy detergents.
There is a range of over-the-counter products which can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of eczema. As eczema makes the skin dry and itchy, lotions and creams help to keep the skin moist. Furthermore, cold compresses may also be used to help relieve itching.
Creams and ointments containing corticosteroids are often prescribed to help lessen any inflammation from eczema. These treatments reduce swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups.
If you are uncertain which emollient is best suited for you, consult your GP. The best moisturiser is the one you are most comfortable using on a daily basis.
There are a number of self-care steps you can take to help prevent or ease the symptoms of eczema. These include:
Following these tips can help you avoid or manage eczema outbreaks:
Finding the right solution to eczema can be a long process. When living with eczema, some treatments can leave your skin feeling drier and more irritated than before. Thankfully, there are a range of natural remedies which you can try at home.
If you’re looking for natural remedies for eczema to try at home, we can help with:
Studies suggest that applying coconut oil to the skin can help reduce the number of staph bacteria and decrease the risk of infection. Coconut oil is one of the most regularly recommended natural remedies for eczema.
Apply coconut oil one or two times a day to damp skin. Make sure to use only virgin or cold-pressed oils, as these methods of oil extraction are chemical-free.
Sunflower oil can help to boost the skin barrier and help it retain moisture. It is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Apply sunflower oil twice a day to the skin. One of these times should be shortly after bathing, while the skin is still wet.
Avoid using sunflower oil if you have a known allergy to sunflower seeds.
Aloe vera gel has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. These can help to prevent skin infections which can be caused by eczema’s dry, cracked skin. The wound-healing effects of aloe vera may also help to soothe the broken skin.
Try to choose aloe gel products with few ingredients as preservatives, alcohol, fragrances and colours can all irritate sensitive skin. Start by applying a small amount to check for skin sensitivity. If it does not cause any burning or stinging, continue to apply daily.
Cardiospermum is a flowering tropical vine native to India and Africa. When extracted and put into a topical ointment, Cardiospermum may reduce inflammation, itchiness and help fight bacteria on the skin.
Tea tree oil is often used to help with a number of skin conditions including psoriasis and acne. Studies have identified antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties in tea tree oil. These properties may relieve skin dryness, itching and help fight infections.
Make sure to dilute tea tree oil before applying to the skin. Try mixing tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil, before using the treatment.
You may have recently noticed a rash on your child’s arms, legs, hands or face. This can be very worrying, however, baby eczema is actually a very common condition that affects 1 in 5 adolescents.
While eczema can be painful, with the itching often interrupting sleep, the symptoms often improve over time and are easily treatable. If you think your child may have eczema, we can help with:
If your child has recently developed a red rash on their arms, legs, hands or face this might be eczema. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a non-contagious skin condition characterised by redness, itching and rashes.
These symptoms can be painful, sometimes causing changes in skin colour and blisters. The itching may also interrupt sleep, with scratched skin at risk of infection. However, they can be easily alleviated by identifying potential irritants and using topical treatments.
While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it is believed to be a mixture of genetic and environmental triggers. For instance, if you have a family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma or hay fever, it is more likely your child will develop eczema.
Common eczema triggers include:
Understanding your child’s symptoms and triggers will help you to manage their eczema and keep the condition under control.
Eczema affects infants and toddlers differently to older children. The location and appearance of eczema often alter, so it is important to know what to look for during each stage of development:
There are a number of simple steps you can take and treatments you can use to help soothe your child’s eczema. These include:
The following images show the different types of eczema. It is recommended that you see a GP who will be able to accurately diagnose your eczema instead of attempting to diagnose yourself. We can help with:
Note the redness and the scratch marks from tearing at the skin. There is some erosion of the skin and skin thickening over the wrist. Image source.
Our private doctors can diagnose your eczema and provide expert treatment and advice. Find out how severe your eczema is and get the right treatment today. We can help with:
Book an appointment to see a doctor in minutes.