Eczema: Types, Causes & Treatments



Eczema is a chronic recurring skin disorder that results in dry, easily irritated, itchy skin. The telltale sign that you have eczema is an itchy, red rash on your skin. In more severe cases of eczema, these rashes can be accompanied by inflammation of the skin and intense itching.


The earliest recorded mention of eczema in the medical literature was in 1933, when researchers tried to differentiate between allergic and non-allergic forms of skin irritations. The term itself dates back to the times of the ancient Greeks, who coined the term “ekzein” (“to boil”) to describe skin problems. From the 1930s onward, there has been significant debate about what the term includes and does not include, with some dermatologists suggesting that “eczema” should no longer be used as a medical term since it is just too general.

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Eczema is the general term for any type of dermatitis or inflammation of the skin. The condition itself is relatively common, afflicting up to 30 million Americans, and is most prevalent in people with dry, sensitive skin. While many people outgrow eczema by the time they become adults, it is still possible to suffer from moderate or severe forms of eczema later in life.



Eczema can appear all over the body, although depending on your age, there is a greater likelihood that it will appear on specific parts of your body. For example, many people get the itchy, red rash in typical dry places on their skin — on their elbows or behind their knees. Newborn babies can have eczema on the face, including their cheeks and chin. Children and adults tend to have eczema on the neck, wrists, ankles, elbows and knees.  The good news is that eczema, unlike other skin conditions, is not contagious.


Wind, low humidity, cold temperature, excessive washing without use of moisturizers, and use of harsh, drying soaps can all cause dry skin and may trigger flare up. The key to reducing the appearance of eczema is a skin care regime that emphasizes hydration and moisturizers.

Eczema sufferer whose family has history with asthma and allergies will have more risk to have a problem with eczema. There are various allergens that may cause or aggravate eczema. For example: nickel, harsh and drying soaps, perfume, domesticated animal contact, plants, rubber and harmful chemicals and also food allergy.



There are many different types of eczema observed in adults and children, each of them with their own unique definitions.

  • Adult seborrheic eczema – Seborrhoeic dermatitis in adults tends to affect the scalp, face, torso and joints and typically results from oily skin.
  • Infantile seborrheic eczema – Infantile seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition seen in infants under the age of one year. It often affects the scalp as cradle cap, a type of visible scaling seen in newborns.
  •  Atopic dermatitis – This is just a fancy word for “eczema” – it refers to a skin condition accompanied by intense itching and a raised, red rash.
  • Contact dermatitis – Contact dermatitis is the most common type of work related skin disease, usually caused by exposure to certain chemicals or soaps.
  • Discoid eczema – Discoid eczema is very distinct in appearance, resulting in coin-shaped discs of eczema on the skin.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema – Dyshidrotic eczema is a type of eczema of unknown cause that is characterized by little blisters on the fingers, palms, and soles of the feet.
  • Hand eczema – Hand eczema (also known as hand dermatitis) is a common condition affecting up to 10 percent of the population. The irritant nature of some chemicals means that hand eczema is particularly common in people with jobs involving cleaning, catering, hairdressing, healthcare and mechanical work.
  • Neurodermatitis eczema – Neurodermatitis is an itchy skin disease similar to atopic dermatitis.
  • Nummular eczema – Nummular eczematous dermatitis (nummular eczema or nummular dermatitis) is a name given to a stubborn, itchy rash that forms coin-shaped patches on the skin
  • Stasis dermatitis – Stasis dermatitis is a common inflammatory skin disease that occurs on the lower extremities caused by blood collecting in the veins of the lower leg as a result of poor circulation.
  • Varicose eczema – Varicose eczema (also called gravitational or stasis eczema) is common later in life.



In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In more severe cases there may be skin secretions, crusting and bleeding. Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection. All of these can lead to more severe skin complications.


There is no known medical cure for eczema. The best treatment is good daily skin care. As a result, most treatments focus on ways to moisturize and hydrate the skin. A good daily skin care regimen for eczema focuses on the basics of bathing and moisturizing. Briefly soaking in a warm bath or shower and then moisturizing immediately afterwards can help your skin lock in moisture. Use of an effective moisturizer several times every day, especially at night, improves skin hydration.

There are several common treatments that can be used for eczema:

  • Creams. These contain a mixture of fat and water and feel light and cool to the skin. For this reason, many people with eczema prefer creams for use during the day. However, all creams contain preservatives and people can become sensitive to them, although this is not common.
  • Ointments. These do not contain preservatives, but they can be very greasy and some people find them unsuitable for use at work or school. However, because they are very effective at holding water in the skin, they are useful for very dry skin.
  • Lotions. These contain more water and less fat than creams, so they are not as effective at moisturizing the skin. However, they are more suitable for hard-to-reach parts of the body, including places with hair.
  • Topical steroids. For more severe cases of eczema that involve significant inflammation, it’s also possible to treat your skin with topical steroids. One major side effect, though, is that the types of steroids used to treat eczema (known as corticosteroids) can also cause thinning of the skin and over a longer period of time, can lead to stretch marks on the skin.

Eczema Treatment: Side Effects of Topical Steroid

Skin atrophy- thinning of the skin is the most common side effects of using potent topical corticosteroids.

Some eczema sufferer may developed glaucoma and even cataracts from prolonged use of a topical corticosteroid to the eyelids region.  Unfortunately, topical corticosteroids can occasionally cause tiny pink bumps and pimple or acne, especially when used on the face area and around the mouth.

When topical corticosteroids are applied to large body surface areas, possibly may be absorbed to inhibit the body’s own production of cortisol, a condition known as “adrenal suppression”. The risk of adrenal suppression is highest with high potency (Class 1-2) corticosteroids.

Young children and infants have a higher ratio of body surface area as compared to their body weight – they are more susceptible to corticosteroid absorption. If a child is given corticosteroids by oral, in large doses or over a long term, prolonged adrenal suppression can be linked with growth suppression and further weakened the immune responses.


There are several eczema home remedies that have proven successful in addressing the symptoms and signs of eczema, including the following.

  • Coconut oil – This all-purpose moisturizer can help to address skin dryness. Simple rub or massage the coconut oil onto the skin.
  • Fermented cod liver oil – This oil can be a great source of healthy fats for the body.
  • Magnesium baths – Soaking in Epsom salts or magnesium flakes can be helpful for healing the skin.
  • Probiotics – This is one dietary supplement that is easy to find in supermarkets, such as in probiotic yogurts or kefir. Gut bacteria found in these can have a big impact on your skin’s appearance, especially if your skin problems are caused by diet and/or digestion.
  • Gelatin-rich foods – Gelatin, in the form of homemade bone broth, can be very helpful for the skin, as well as soothing overall.


Depending on the severity of the eczema, there are some psychological effects of the condition, many of them related to self-esteem and body image. These effects may be particularly magnified during puberty, when it is particularly embarrassing to have red rashes on your skin. People sometimes change their clothing in order to hide signs of eczema in certain parts of their body, especially if they are in a profession that works closely with people.



There are several things that you can do to prevent eczema. [] The following five steps have proven the most effective:

  • Moisturize every day – Since eczema results from dry, sensitive skin, it’s important to minimize this condition as much as possible by applying moisturizer 2-3 times per day, especially at night.
  • Use a humidifier in dry weather – In cold weather, the dry air can dry out your skin. For that reason, you need to control the moisture of your atmosphere as much as possible, and people sometimes buy humidifiers for the home or office.
  • Change your style of clothing – Cotton and natural fabrics feel better next to your skin than synthetic fabrics or rough, scratchy clothes. Loose-fitting clothing is less likely to aggravate your skin than tight-fitting clothing.
  • Take warm showers – As long as you do not shower for no more than 10-15 minutes at a time, you can help to rehydrate your skin with warm showers. This can help to regulate the moisture level of your skin. As soon as you’re done, pat dry your skin with a soft towel rather than rubbing your skin. While taking the bath or shower, do not use an abrasive washcloth.
  • Use special soaps or cleansers – If these have been approved for sensitive skin, they can reduce the chances of aggravating your skin.


Eczema is a relatively common skin condition that afflicts up to 10 percent of the adult population at any time, and an even greater percentage of young children. Eczema is most commonly observed in babies and children, although symptoms can last into adulthood. The basic ways to prevent and treat eczema is to change your skin care regime to emphasize moisturizing the skin. However, there still remains no known medical cure for eczema.



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