What is Eczema and How Do I Treat it?

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A Distressing Skin Disorder

Eczema is one of the most distressing skin conditions and afflicts children and adults alike. Theories exist about the causes of the disorder but these are by no means definite and eczema can flair at any time without any obvious causes. However it can often be successfully treated. I have suffered from it on and off throughout my life but thankfully in recent years it has disappeared.


What are the Symptoms of Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis is a type of skin disorder or condition which manifests itself as a redness and inflammation of the epidermis or outer layer of the skin. Often the area can be covered with tiny blisters filled with lymph fluid and the underlying skin tissue can swell as fluid is released. The surface of the skin is sometimes scaly and can crack easily. Itching is a constant symptom of the disorder and this creates an "itch-scratch-itch" cycle where itchy skin is scratched, becomes raw and irritated, leading to more itchiness and then further scratching.
Eczema is non contagious since it is a disorder, not a disease. However damaged skin may become infected.


What Causes Eczema and Immune System Disorders

Normal skin is made up of an outer layer, middle layer and inner fat layer. One of the functions of skin is to act as a barrier to keep moisture in and harmful substances out. Normally water and oil in skin helps to maintain this function. However if you suffer from eczema, your skin doesn't produce the same quantity of fats and oils and can easily dry out, become cracked, scaly and prone to irritation. The result is an overreaction of the immune system and classic inflammation symptoms such as redness, swelling and blisters.
Soap and detergents can exacerbate the situation by removing natural oils from the skin. Cold frosty weather may also be detrimental as air humidity is often low and this dries out skin. Other chemical irritants and known allergens can also cause a flare up of eczema.
Eczema has a genetic component and often several members of a family will have symptoms of the condition.


My Personal Experience as an Eczema Sufferer

As a baby I had eczema on my face. It then disappeared until I was about ten at which point the back of my leg became itchy. Scratching led to irritation and redness and then further itchiness. As anyone who suffers from eczema knows, this "itch-scratch-itch" vicious circle is what tends to prolong eczema and keep it active. Eventually this phase of my eczema ended and I was free of the scourge for several years.
My next experience of the condition was when I was about 14. I was cutting privet hedges and had cut and scratched my little finger. I don't know whether this was the trigger factor but from what I can remember, the finger became itchy afterwards and soon I started getting this rash on my hand which spread from finger to finger and to the back of my hand. The symptoms were classic: redness, itchiness, water blisters, swelling and skin cracking. Over the next 20 years both of my hands became affected. The severity of the condition varied, ranging from a light rash to mildly swollen uncomfortable hands. If I got anxious, the condition worsened. At night I would scratch my itchy fingers and wake up in the morning with "angry" skin.



Treatment for Eczema

Treatment

My GP prescribed hydro-cortisone steroidal anti-inflammatory cream. This is a standard treatment for skin inflammation and in my case it did help to reduce irritation and itchiness. These creams should be used with caution as they are well known to cause thinning of the skin if used for long periods.
I tried to eliminate various foods to see whether the condition was an allergic reaction. However I never discovered any correlation. Dairy products have a reputation for producing allergic reactions. I think I used soya milk for a period and eliminated cheese from my diet but there was no improvement.
I have tried to avoid washing my hands with soap as much as possible unless my hands are really dirty. Soap removes a lot of the natural oils from the skin, drying it out and making it prone to cracking. Hand creams are essential to replace this moisture. However some contain alcohol and while I can tolerate this to some extent on my hands, I have found that many moisturizers irritate and burn the skin on my face.
On frosty days I noticed that my skin cracked and split. While I used to think that this was caused by the cold, I reckon that low air humidity on frosty days caused my skin to dry out, become inflexible and crack.
Stress and anxiety seem to exacerbate the condition and cause a breakout of eczema in other parts of the body.

Does UV Cure Eczema?

Around 7 years ago my eczema disappeared. I had been doing a lot of welding without wearing gloves around this time, and as you may be aware, arc welding produces lots of UV radiation. It might be just coincidence or it could be a serendipitous discovery that UV cures the condition! (By the way I don't recommend or advise welding without gloves!). I recently did a Google search and came up with this article about UV treatment:

UV Phototherapy Treatment for Eczema

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In Conclusion........

My eczema appears to have gone "into remission". Mild attacks occasionally re-occur but are confined to small areas of skin on my hands or feet. Usually this is due to excessive washing and scrubbing of my hands with soap, contact with washing up liquid and other detergents.

Further reading.........

If you found this useful, please take the time to rate it below. You may also be interested in some further reading:

What is Migraine and How Can it be Treated ?

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Comments 9 comments

susi10 profile image

susi10 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

Hi eugbug! I find this hub about eczema very interesting and is well structured and well-written. As an eczema sufferer myself, I can see where you are coming from! I recommend trying Silcocks Base which is an emollient and can be substituted for soap. I have written my own hub about eczema called 'Silcocks Base: The Natural and Effective cure for eczema'. I will put a link to this hub from my hub and thank you for sharing this wonderful hub!


eugbug profile image

eugbug 3 years ago from Ireland Author

Hi Susan, thanks for dropping by and the comments! Eczema is a peculiar condition which comes and goes and often flares up when one is under stress. Moisturizing is very important, because skin can eventually crack as natural oils are removed by over washing.


LWhip profile image

LWhip 2 years ago

Hi eubug, our children have eczema in varying degrees. I've read a number of articles about eczema and I particularly liked your content and style of writing. Interesting and useful - cheers!


eugbug profile image

eugbug 2 years ago from Ireland Author

Hi LWhip and thanks for reading! I haven't had eczema for several years now, and I can't over stress that excess use of soap may possibly be to blame for worsening some cases of eczema. Moisturizers can also burn and irritate skin and make matters worse, so you need to experiment with different products. Scratching needs to be avoided at all costs because it further irritates the skin (Even though you really want to do it!). I have seen suggestions in articles on the subject that small children should wear mittens in bed to prevent them scratching and causing damage to their skin while asleep. I don't know how practical this would be though!


etaCarinae profile image

etaCarinae 2 years ago from United States

I hope in the future, they can make some of the powerful corticosteroids available today safer for general use. You wouldn't believe their effectiveness, but the immune system issues they cause allow certain microbes to make you sick.

http://hubpages.com/health/Eczema-Treatment-A-Guid...


Mariasha profile image

Mariasha 10 months ago from Rotherham

Drink pure clear honey about 2-3 tablespoons every day and you would treat eczema. Please read my blog that I have wrote about eczema


nice1here profile image

nice1here 4 months ago from Napoleon, Ohio

Hi, I have suffered from Eczema and did a lot of research. I have found chickweed and Dandelion herbs healed my eczema. I do continue to take them everyday. I am now free of Eczema!


eugbug profile image

eugbug 4 months ago from Ireland Author

Hi Christine, thanks for the comment. Everyone's different so it's a good idea to try different options to see what works best. In general though, soap should be avoided, especially on hands which get washed more frequently than other parts of the body. Moisturisers are very important, but avoid those which contain alcohol and can burn sensitive skin.


nice1here profile image

nice1here 4 months ago from Napoleon, Ohio

thanks for the information! Have a great day!

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