What is it and what causes it?
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition characterised by dry, red, swollen and itchy skin. In severe cases lesions may bleed, weep, crust or become infected. While the specific cause of eczema is unknown, many factors are understood to be linked to the condition. These may include other diseases, environmental irritants (chemicals, changes in temperature, tobacco smoke) allergies, stress or a genetic predisposition.
Although presentation is more commonly seen in early childhood (particularly infants), eczema can affect people of all ages.
There are many treatment options for the management of eczema, and as every individual case differs it is recommended to consult a qualified professional to determine the best course of treatment for you.
- Moisturisers/emollients to hydrate the skin.
- Anti-inflammatory ointments or topical steroids to reduce the discomfort and inflammation.
- Ultraviolet Radiation Therapy (UVB): Exposing the skin to Type B UV light suppresses the skin’s inflammatory response, reduces symptoms of swelling and itchiness, increases Vitamin D production and may aid the skin’s natural antibacterial properties.
- Oral medication/oral corticosteroids may be prescribed for more severe cases or instances in which other methods have shown limited success.
Effective treatments for eczema typically consist of a combination of topical steroid application and ultraviolet light therapy (UVB).
In what areas of the body does eczema usually present?
The cheeks, forehead, chin and skin folds of the elbows, knees, feet, hands and neck are the most common sites of presentation in infants and children. In adults the face, neck and hands are usually affected and in more severe cases the eyelids may be also be involved.
Is eczema contagious?
No, eczema is not contagious.
How can I manage my eczema symptoms?
- Regular moisturising of the skin to reduce dryness.
- Lukewarm (rather than hot) showers and baths, avoid harsh soaps or cleansers and dry the skin gently with a soft towel.
- Avoid rapid changes of temperature (eg. overheating or air conditioning).
- Avoid perfumed or harsh washing detergents and cleaning products.
- Wear cotton and other soft fabrics to avoid irritating the skin.
- Know your individual triggers for eczema episodes and avoid them as much as possible.
Could my diet be contributing to my eczema?
Yes, certain dietary allergies have been known to trigger episodes of eczema. An allergy test may be beneficial in determining the exact cause(s) of flare-ups.