Eczema

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a dry skin condition. It is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes in many different forms.

Some of the common questions are-

What are the symptoms and skin changes in eczema?

In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy.

In more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding.

Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection.

Which age group is commonly affected?

Eczema affects people of all ages but is primarily seen in children. Those who “grow out” of their eczema during early childhood may see it recur again in later life

Is eczema contagious?

It is not contagious so you cannot catch it from someone else.

What is atopic eczema?

Atopic eczema is a genetic condition based on the interaction between a number of genes and environmental factors. In most cases there will be a family history of either eczema or one of the other ‘atopic’ conditions i.e asthma or hay fever.

What happens in eczema?

Healthy skin cells are plumped up with water, forming a protective barrier against damage and infection. Fats and oils in the skin help retain moisture, maintain body temperature and also prevent harmful substances or bacteria from entering our bodies.

If you have eczema, your skin may not produce as much fats and oils as other people’s, and will be less able to retain water. The protective barrier is therefore not as good as it should be.

Moisture is then lost from the deeper layers of the skin, allowing bacteria or irritants to pass through more easily. Some everyday substances contribute to breaking down the skin.

Soap, bubble bath and washing-up liquid, for example, will remove oil from anyone’s skin, but if you have eczema your skin breaks down more easily, quickly becoming irritated, cracked and inflamed.

Because it is prone to drying out and is easily damaged, skin with eczema is more liable to become red and inflamed on contact with substances that are known to irritate or cause an allergic reaction.

How to take care of eczematous skin?

Moisturize the skin with emollients and keep it hydrated. Simple pure coconut oil is a good moisturizer and is easily available. 

Avoid the use of harsh soaps and long hot showers

Soap is very drying to the skin and is best avoided by people with eczema. The hands are particularly at risk, as they are washed more frequently. Liquid soaps/cleansers and perfumed products should also be avoided as they tend to irritate skin with eczema.

Avoid perfumes

How are emollients applied and when?

  • Apply emollients after bathing, while water is still trapped in the skin for extra hydration.
     

  • Use liberally and frequently – at least three times a day.
     

  • Apply gently in the direction of the hair growth. Never rub up and down vigorously as this could trigger itching, block hair follicles or create more heat in the skin.
     

  • Continue to use the emollient, even when the eczema has improved as this will help prevent flare ups.

 How does swimming pool water affect eczema?

Many different environmental irritants can trigger eczema, and swimming pool water is no exception. Some

people with eczema may experience irritation or drying of their skin; others experience no negative effects

Chlorine can also cause dryness, but since it is a bleach, and recent research in eczema has recommended diluted bleach as a way of reducing bacteria on eczematous skin, it is not all bad!

Some people with eczema may experience irritant dermatitis. This can be due to the skin reacting to chlorine or to any of the other chemicals added to sanitise or alter the chemical balance of the swimming pool water. If

this happens to you, it may be worth changing where you swim as different pools may use different chemical

treatment systems.

Practical suggestions for avoiding swimming-related skin problems:

  • Avoid swimming if the eczema is flaring badly.

  • If swimming indoors, apply your usual emollient cream, before entering the water

  • If swimming outdoors, remember that the sun reflects on water and therefore waterproof sun protection will be required.

  • Apply emollients about half an hour before applying sunscreen – this will prevent the sunscreen becoming diluted by the emollient and ensure that the sunscreen protects your skin.

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