Although there are several different types of eczema, they all produce the same basic changes in the skin. In the acute stage of eczema, fluid accumulates in the epidermis, both within and between the epidermal cells. Blisters are formed, and although they are often microscopic, they may occasionally be visible to the naked eye. The blisters, along with the increased amount of fluid between die cells, produce die characteristic moist, or weeping, surface of the skin.
Another symptom of eczema is a reddish skin color, which is due to the dilation (widening) of die blood vessels near the skin surface. In addition, dry skin appears slightly swollen. As die condition continues, the epidermis thickens and die skin becomes scaly or flaky.
Types of Eczema
Seborrheic eczema occurs most commonly on the scalp, where it is manifested as severe dandruff. On the face, chest, and in die body folds it appears as a reddish rash dial is sometimes covered with yellowish scales. In nummular eczema, coin-sized eczematous patches appear on die arms and legs. This type of eczema is most common in people with dry skin.
Infantile eczema, which occurs only in infants, is often due to friction on an area of skin that has been dried out by too frequent bathing. This type of eczema is particularly apt to occur in winter. Sometimes infants also develop seborrheic eczema, which usually involves die scalp, producing the condition often known as "cradle cap."
Treatment of Eczema
In cases of eczema where weeping is prominent, wet dressings are the best type of therapy. Not only does the wet cloth have a cleansing action, but the evaporation of water from die dressing produces a cooling sensation. This cooling alleviates any itching and also helps constrict the skin's blood vessels. The wet dressings should be removed, re-moistened, and reap-plied every 5 minutes for 1 to 2 hours. This should be repeated three or four times a day. During the intervals between dressings, various creams, lotions, or pastes may be applied to the skin. Once the eczema has stopped weeping, the condition may be controlled with ointments or creams, especially those containing anti-inflammatory agents.