Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition where a person will have episodic rashes or skin lesions. There are several possible causes of eczema, and often a combination of factors leads to outbreaks. The immune system may also be involved in some cases.
Eczema typically begins in childhood, or even infancy. Often, the condition will get better as a person reaches adulthood, but he or she might still experience occasional outbreaks. Eczema is a relatively common condition. It is neither contagious nor dangerous; however, it can be embarrassing or uncomfortable.
In many cases, there are several causes of eczema rather than one single factor. Dry irritable skin can cause or exacerbate eczema. Some cases of eczema may be caused by immune system problems. Other cases may be genetically influenced. A family history of asthma or hay fever is common in people with eczema.
There are some causes of eczema that, while not the original cause of the condition, lead to outbreaks or make them worse. Stress is one factor that can exacerbate eczema. Additives such as dyes or perfumes commonly found in lotions and soaps can also stimulate an outbreak or further irritate the skin.
There are no medical tests for eczema, and typically a doctor will make a diagnosis by looking at the affected skin. A doctor will typically also ask about a person’s history of outbreaks, determining if the skin rash is a one-time or recurring condition. He or she may also evaluate a family history.
There is no cure for eczema, so most treatments focus on relieving symptoms and dealing with outbreaks. Eczema is typically treated with home remedies, though antihistamine medications may also give relief, especially if one of the causes of eczema is allergies. A cortisone cream applied directly to the affected area may also help. Moisturizing the skin is another way to help fight an outbreak of eczema.
Treatment also focuses on avoiding the causes of eczema outbreaks or irritants that can make the condition worse. Unscented soaps and lotions can help cut down on possible skin irritants. Certain types of detergent may also irritate the skin, as can scratchy clothing made of wool or other rough materials.
For some people, certain foods can trigger or worsen an outbreak, so dietary changes might be necessary. Keeping stress levels low can also help mitigate symptoms. Environmental allergens or chemicals should also be avoided.