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The word 'Eczema' comes from the Greek work ekzein which means to boil
for some people it can make your skin feel very hot and irritated when you have an eczema flare up!
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ECZEMA is a general term for any type of dermatitis or 'inflammation of the skin'.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most severe and long-lasting form of eczema. Although the term eczema is often used for atopic dermatitis, there are several other skin diseases that are eczemas as well. A partial list of eczemas include: atopic dermatitis, nummular eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis. All types of eczema cause itching and redness and some will blister, weep or peel.

 

Atopic Eczema

This is the most common form of Eczema, and is thought to be most often a hereditary condition, passed down in families who have a history of atopic disorders, such as asthma or hayfever. Physicians often refer to these three conditions [eczema, asthma & hayfever] as the 'atopic triad'.

People with atopic eczema have excessive reactions by the immune system, which can cause a flare up on their skin, making it red, bumpy or itchy. These reactions can be caused by many different things, and it differs from one person to the next. They may be sensitive to allergens in the environment, such as pollen and dust. Or they may have a reaction after eating certain foods. It is important for people with Atopic Eczema to try to pinpoint what their sensitivities are, so that they can try to eliminate their exposure to those things.

Another thing that can cause eczema sufferers skin to flare up is Stress. So they should try to avoid stress as much as possible, and perhaps learn some relaxation techniques or activities to help them relax if they feel themselves getting anxious or stressed. For babies and children with eczema, it is very important to keep their environment calm and stress free too. If they do become distressed or anxious for some reason, and they start to scratch their skin, the most effective way of stopping the scratching is to distract them! Atopic Eczema can be a long-term condition, so it's important to put an action plan into place and to have a good routine when it comes to bathing, putting cream on, eating a healthy balanced diet, and getting sufficient rest.

Eczema can affect any person, at any age, but it usually appears in children between 12 months and 6 years of age. This is because their immune system and digestive system are still developing and their skin is much thinner than adults skin. While skin care is an essential part of baby eczema treatment, proper nutrition should also be considered as extremely important, because this is the only way to naturally strengthen the skin barrier, eliminate allergies and boost the immune system. Foods rich in good oils and omega fatty acids can be very beneficial to eczema sufferers - fish, salmon, flaxseed, etc. Foods to be avoided include - artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, high sugar content foods, sugary fruit juices, etc. So basically; try to eat natural, raw food items instead of processed, packaged items which reak havoc on your inner health. your body will thank you for it!

Children affected by Atopic Dermatitis may suffer from asthma and hay fever at the same time, or one or both of these conditions may develop later. Children who have developed eczema genetically (through their parents/grandparents) have only one copy of a gene that is responsible for repairing skin (they should have two copies). This is why their skin becomes more dry, scaly, itchy, open to outside infection, and susceptible to environmental irritants.

AD is a very common disease, present worldwide, though it is more common in urban areas and developed countries. An estimated 10 percent of all people are at some time affected by AD. It affects men and women of all races equally.

 

Initial Triggers to watch out for:

AD tends to flare-up when the person is exposed to certain trigger factors—substances or conditions which worsen the dermatitis such as dry skin, irritants, allergens, emotional stress, heat and sweating, and infections.The key to controlling AD is avoiding or reducing such exposure. People with atopic diseases are usually sensitive to certain agitating substances. Some of these substances are irritants and others are allergens.

Irritants are substances that cause burning, itching or redness such as solvents, industrial chemicals, detergents, fumes, tobacco smoke, paints, bleach, woolens, acidic foods like orange juice, astringents and other alcohol containing skin care products, soaps and fragrances.

Allergens are more subtle trigger factors. An allergen does not irritate, but may trigger a flare-up in those who have become allergic to it from prior exposure. Allergens are usually animal or vegetable proteins from foods, pollens or pets.

 

Food Allergy linked to Eczema:

Food allergies can cause flare-ups. Since an allergic reaction to food (either by skin contact during food preparation or by eating the food) can trigger an AD flare-up, it is important to identify the trigger foods. Diagnosing food allergies is extremely difficult. The surest way is to observe a worsening of eczema when a particular food is eaten, and keeping a food diary to refer back to. Sometimes this is only a coincidence with flaring and needs to be verified with a food challenge, where the suspected food is eaten in the doctor’s office. Withholding foods should be done only under the supervision of a physician, as serious nutritional damage can be caused by the elimination of foods suspected to cause flare-ups. Patients are seldom allergic to more than one or two foods.

A skin prick test, made by scratching the skin and putting a drop of the 'allergen' onto the tiny scratch, is probably the most accurate way to test for allergies. If the scratched area becomes red and inflamed, the test is considered positive. The severity of the allergy depends on the size of the red spot on the skin when it is inflamed. This type of allergy testing is usually a good indication, but not always 100% accurate. For many allergy sufferers it is worth having a skin prick test, it can however be quite expensive. A blood test is another type of test to detect food allergies, but they are not as accurate as skin-prick testing.

 

Emotional Stress linked to Eczema flare-ups:

Many older AD children and adults recognize a relationship between stressful occurrences in their lives and their AD flare-ups. Anger, frustration and embarrassment all may cause flushing and itching. The resultant scratching can cascade into perpetuating dermatitis. People with AD can learn how to avoid stress-triggered flare-ups. Two key concepts are involved:

  1. Coping with psychologically stressful events
  2. Controlling scratching behavior

 

Heat & Humidity linked to Eczema flare-ups:

Extreme cold or hot temperatures, or sudden changes in temperature, are poorly tolerated by persons with AD. High humidity causes increased sweating and may result in prickly heat-type symptoms. Low humidity dries the skin, especially during winter months when homes are heated. Unfortunately, humidifiers do not help much; the best protection against “winter itch” is regular application of a good moisturizer. While you can do little about the climate (and moving to a new climate is usually not recommended), you can try to keep your home environment comfortable. Keeping thermostats set low and wearing fewer bedclothes, to prevent night sweating, are two ways to combat the problem.

 
Simple Tips to Help Manage Your Eczema On a Daily Basis:
 
  • Have a bath or shower every day! Some people will recommend eczema sufferers refrain from bathing every day but if you only stay in the water for 5 minutes, and add some hydrating oil to your bath (or applied after your shower) like 'Banaban Coconut Oil', it will actually be beneficial to your skin. We recommend using our Extra Virgin Coconut Oil as it is completely natural, and it's actually anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial which is a big benefit for anyone with eczema, especially if the skin has been broken. Just make sure that the water is not hot, because hot water will dry your skin out very quickly. Remember - only stay in the water for about 5 minutes. 
     
  • As soon as you get out of the bath, don't rub your skin dry, just pat it gently. Then immediately apply a thick, natural, all-over moisturiser, like 'Hope's Relief Hydrating Lotion'. This will lock the moisture into your skin and keep it hydrated.
     
  • If you're planning on exercising and working up a sweat, try to have a shower/bath straight afterwards, to wash off any sweat, pollen or dirt you may have picked up on your skin. This will help to stop irritation and itchy skin which sometimes occurs after intense physical activity.

 
  • Be aware of scratching. Keep a record of times and situations when scratching is worst, and try to limit your exposure to such situations. Many people with AD scratch the most during idle times. Engaging in a structured activity with other people or keeping busy with activities that involve the use of your hands may help prevent scratching.
     
    Control your environment. Avoid irritants and allergens. Eat a healthy balanced diet. Wear soft cotton clothing. Guard against infection. Moisturise.
 
 

What to Do if Eczema Really Flares Up?

If you suspect you might have a skin infection (red bumps/blister-like lumps on the skin) the first thing you should do is see your doctor, as you may need to take a course of antibiotics. This will help to get the infection under control, then you can focus on managing the hydration of the skin. Bathing or 'wet wrapping' with bandages may ease the itch. Cortisone (steroid) creams applied directly to the affected area are helpful, but I don't recommend the use of steroid creams unless you have a very bad flare up, and you need to get the skin under control.

Cortisone pills or shots are sometimes used but they are not safe for long-term use. Researchers are constantly seeking new and safer drugs to control the itch and inflammation. Another treatment option is the use of ultraviolet light or sunlamps. Under a physician’s supervision, some AD sufferers find this treatment helps. A great starting point for eczema sufferers is to ensure they have a healthy, balanced diet. Their diet should include multi-vitamins, fish oil tablets, and mineral supplements. Probiotic vitamins can be very beneficial also - your local Health Food Store will have probiotics suitable for every need. For example; there is a dairy-free probiotic powder for those will allergies that you can mix in with drinks, soy yoghurt, etc.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) are a family of topical medications that work to inhibit the skin’s inflammatory response (which is what causes the redness and also contributes to itching). There are two FDA approved nonsteroid drugs: tacrolimus and pimecrolimus. TCIs are not steroids and do not cause thinning of the skin but they can suppress the immune system in the skin so that the use of sun protection for anyone receiving this therapy is recommended.

 

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Contact Dermatitis

Presents itself as a similar rash to atopic eczema. The difference is that 'contact' dermatitis (as the name suggests) is the result of an allergic reaction after coming into contact with, or touching something. This type of eczema can be caused by many irritants including; soaps, detergents, latex, cosmetics, different fabrics, wool, metals, plants, animal hair, feathers, etc. Dermatitis usually affects the hands, because it is the hands that are touching everything while you work. But it can also affect the arms, face or legs, in fact any part of the body. Skin dryness is usually the first sign of dermatitis and often starts in the web spaces between the fingers.

Dermatitis can make the skin:

  • Dry
  • Itchy
  • Red
  • Split and cracked
  • Flake and peel
  • Burn and sting
  • Sometimes there are small blisters

Like eczema, this condition can be very distressing and unsightly, and people often find the appearance of their skin embarrassing. It can interfere with sleeping, especially when it is very itchy. In some circumstances, dermatitis can become so severe that some people have to give up their job or career. However, it can often be managed with good skin care. When dermatitis develops the skin may take months to heal, even once it looks like it has returned to normal.

Dermatitis commonly affects people working in a range of industries, but most often affects those working in:

  • Hairdressing
  • Healthcare
  • Food handling
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Printing
  • Metal working
  • Automotive industry

 

There are 3 main types of Dermatitis:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Contact Urticaria. (latex allergy is a type of contact urticaria)

 

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type of dermatitis. Usually irritant contact dermatitis builds up over time, after regular exposure to skin irritants.


Skin dryness is usually the first sign and often starts in the web spaces between the fingers.

The most common causes of irritant contact dermatitis are:

  • Water and 'wet work' e.g. frequent hand washing, dishwashing, food preparation, patient bathing and repeated shampooing (for hairdressers)
  • Soaps and detergent
  • Heat and sweating
  • Dusts and fibres
  • Chemicals such as solvents and thinners
  • Grease, oils, fuels

The skin may take months to heal, even once it looks like it has returned to normal.

People working in the following industries, especially those jobs which involve lots of 'wet work' and frequent contact with chemicals, are at highest risk. These include:

  • Food handling
  • Hair and beauty
  • Healthcare
  • Mechanical and metal working and
  • Construction


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Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed type of allergy. Allergy is very individual (i.e. a person may be allergic to something, that another person can use with no problems). It can occur at any time, even if you have been using a product for many years or just a few weeks. With this form of dermatitis, the rash appears 8 to 24 hours after contact and lasts for several days, sometimes more.

If the skin is already damaged, such as being dry and cracked, the risk of becoming allergic to something is much higher. Once an allergy to something has developed, it is lifelong and even the smallest amount of contact will cause the rash to appear again.

Only certain chemicals have the potential to cause allergic reactions. It is said that there are approximately 100,000 chemicals, but only about 4,000 have been reported to cause allergic contact dermatitis. Some very strong substances, such as kerosene, do not cause allergy, but are extremely irritating to the skin.

Whether people develop an allergic reaction depends on:

  • The type of chemical contacted
  • Concentration of chemical on the skin
  • Duration of skin contact
  • Individual tendency to develop allergy

Common causes of allergy are:

  • Hair dye
  • Nickel
  • Chromate which is found in cement and used in tanned leather
  • Rubber chemicals, also called accelerators, which can be found in gloves
  • Glues and coatings such as epoxy resin
  • Preservatives in skin care products
  • Fragrances
  • Some foods such as garlic and onion

Patch testing is the diagnostic test used to see if a person is allergic to substances.


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Contact Urticaria

Contact urticaria is a different type of allergy, which can also occur at any time.
The reaction starts immediately following contact with the allergen, usually within 10-30 minutes following skin contact. It normally settles down an hour after contact has stopped, and the reaction is usually caused by a plant or animal product. This condition usually causes welts or hives on the skin, with itchiness and swelling, but can also cause a runny nose, sneezing and asthma-like symptoms. Recurrent episodes of contact urticaria can lead to dermatitis (termed 'protein contact dermatitis'). This may appear just like allergic or irritant contact dermatitis.

Special blood tests and a different form of allergy testing, prick testing, is used to diagnose contact urticaria. Prick testing is commonly used by allergists to diagnose causes of asthma, hayfever and food allergies. Blood tests (radioallergosorbent or RAST) can also be used.

 


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Seborrhoeic Eczema

Seb-or-A-ik Eczema appears in the areas of skin where there are large numbers of grease / sebaceous glands.

 

Seborrhoeic eczema in adults

Adult seborrhoeic eczema usually starts on the scalp as dandruff which can progress to redness, irritation and increased scaling, which then becomes seborrhoeic eczema. If the scalp continues to be inflamed the eczema may spread to the face and neck.

Areas of the body which are often affected include;

- Eyebrows,

- Temples,

- Folds at the sides of the Nose,

- Neck

- Behind the Ears

Eczema on these areas tends to look red, and shed small white flakes of skin. Seborrhoeic eczema can often be particularly bad behind the ears – larger, greasy scales stick to the skin and surrounding hair, making the area look thickly crusted.

Mild cases of seborrhoeic eczema can also form under the armpits, under the breasts, in the groin area, and between the buttocks and genitals.

 

Recent studies have shown that a form of yeast has be found on the skin of people with seborrhoeic eczema, which may be a contributing factor to why this type of eczema forms. It is not yet known whether the yeast (called Pityrosporum Ovale, otherwise known as 'Malassezia furfur') is the sole cause of this condition or not, but it is known to thrive in areas of the body where there are more sebaceous glands. We will keep you updated as soon as we find out more info from further studies.

 

Seborrhoeic Eczema in Children

Childhood seborrhoeic eczema is usually seen in infants under the age of one and can appear quite suddenly between two and six months after birth. Often the nappy area is affected first, however, it tends to spread fairly rapidly so the scalp, face, neck, armpits and sometimes even the trunk are soon affected – this may seem rather alarming but don’t worry, it will soon improve!

In the nappy area, the skin looks red, inflamed and flaky – the surface may also feel bumpy due to tiny blisters. Sometimes it spreads up the body and down the legs, when small round or oval patches are seen, which later join together to form larger red areas.

Areas of the body which are most often affected include;

- On the scalp, the scales are larger, greasy and yellowish – they tend to stick to the head making it look crusted.

- The forehead,

- Temples,

- Eyebrows,

- Back of neck,

- Behind the ears, and

- Folds at the sides of the nose.

Childhood seborrhoeic eczema is not usually itchy, sore or uncomfortable, so your baby should be able to feed, play and sleep as usual, and hopefully be undisturbed by it.

 


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Discoid Eczema (otherwise known as Nummular Dermatitis) Just to make you even more confused!

Discoid Eczema is usually seen in adults with dry skin. It can sometimes affect young children and teenagers but this is quite rare.

It presents itself with very distinct ‘coin shaped’ discs of eczema, usually about the size of a fifty cent piece. The rash starts off red and bumpy, usually on the lower legs, trunk or forearms. Within a few days the patches can become very itchy, crusted and infected. People suffering from Discoid Eczema should try to treat the area immediately, and keep it very clean. Although it's tempting to scratch, they should try to avoid scratching it, and even apply a small bandage if it will prevent them from scratching the area.

Like most types of eczema the exact cause is not clear, but dry skin is the most common feature seen in people with this condition. Other factors include the use of soaps and detergents, and previous history of eczema.

Simple treatment tips:

- Drink plenty of water

- Keep the skin hydrated by applying natural moisturisers 2-3 times daily

- Avoid hot baths or showers

- Try to avoid contact with cleaning chemicals, soaps, perfumes, etc

- Take fish oil tablets every day

 


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Pompholyx Eczema (otherwise known as Dyshidrotic Eczema)

 This type of eczema presents itself as blistering either on the hands or feet. Pompholyx accounts for 5-20% of all cases of hand eczema.

The blisters can break and cause weeping and the skin becomes very itchy and inflamed. Peeling can also occur as the skin dries out. The exact cause is not known, although factors such as emotional tension, a sensitivity to metal compounds such as nickel, cobalt, chromate, or heat and sweating can aggravate this type of eczema.

 

Simple treatment tips:

- Keep hands & feet very clean

- Try to avoid situations where you may become hot or sweaty

- Keep the skin hydrated by applying natural moisturisers 2-3 times daily

- Avoid hot baths or showers

- Try to avoid contact with cleaning chemicals, soaps, perfumes, etc

- Take fish oil tablets every day

 


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Asteatotic Eczema (otherwise known as eczema cracquelée)

This type of eczema usually only affects people over the age of 60 years. The cause is not known but asteatotic eczema can be linked to a decrease in the oils on the skin surface, low humidity, over cleansing of the skin, hot baths, scrubbing the skin and vigourous towel drying. Pre-existing dryness and roughness of the skin are also linked to this type of eczema.

Asteatotic eczema initially appears on the shins with a ‘crazy paving’ appearance. Fissures or grooves can appear which look pink and red, but tend to only affect the superficial layers of the skin.

Other areas that can be affected are upper arms, thighs and lower back but it is usually linked to the legs. It can cause a great deal of discomfort including soreness and itching.

 

Simple treatment tips:

- Keep the skin hydrated by applying nutritional moisturisers 2-3 times daily

- Avoid hot baths or showers

- After a shower gently 'pat' the skin down, don't rub skin as it dries it out

- Try to avoid contact with cleaning chemicals, soaps, perfumes, etc

- Take fish oil tablets & multivitamins every day

 

 


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Gravitational Eczema (otherwise known as varicose or stasis eczema)

This type of eczema is most common later in life, and particularly in women. If you have poor circulation, have had a blood clot in your legs, have varicose veins, or if you are overweight, you are at risk of developing gravitational eczema.

Poor circulation means that the blood doesn't travel as well up the veins towards the heart. The resulting increase in pressure weakens the vein walls causing fluid to pool in the lower legs, which makes the ankles swell.

Blood may then leak through the very small vessels in the legs, causing a dark red or brown patch under the skin. Over a period of time, the skin becomes very thin and fragile on the lower legs and can easily break down, leading to an ulcer.

When gravitational eczema is severe, the skin can start weeping. Crusted areas can then become bigger and lead to a varicose leg ulcer.

A leg ulcer is a small hole in the skin which can deepen and widen and become very sore. Because of the nature of the wound, it can easily become infected and can be difficult to heal especially in those with poor circulation.

 

 

 

 

** The information in this website sets forth current opinions from recognized authorities, but it does not dictate an exclusive treatment course. People with questions about a medical condition should consult a physician who is knowledgeable about that condition.

 

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