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Eczema - The Causes And Symptoms

Eczema is generally used to refer to a variety of skin inflammation types. It is also used interchangeably with dermatitis because one of the most common types of eczema is atopic dermatitis.

Almost anyone of any age can be affected by eczema. However, infants are the most common afflicted (20% of the total population between ages 1-6). There is no known cure for this affliction although, fortunately, it permanently resolves (or self-cures) over a period of time in most cases. Eczema appears to be a hereditary trait, i.e., those whose ancestors have a history of eczema stand a strong chance of getting the affliction and passing it on to their offspring.

Causes of eczema

It is not precisely known what causes eczema, although many doctors believe that the cause may have something to do with an aberration in the immune system functions. Triggering factors for eczema include skin contact with certain types of cosmetics, jewelry, soaps, clothing and, at times, even sweat! Other factors that trigger eczema are naturally occurring; i.e., changes in weather and stress.

Symptoms of eczema

How eczema manifests itself is largely variable depending on the person and specific type of eczema that the person gets affected with. However, one common symptom is itchy (or burning), dry, reddened skin. Because the itchiness is so intense, secondary manifestations of eczema include blisters and lesions oozing with fluids, thickened, crusty skin, or dry and scaly skin.

Common areas where eczema appears are the face and neck, inner sides of the joints of the extremities, particularly elbows, knees and ankles. In infants, the common areas of eczema are the extremities, scalp, forehead, neck and cheeks of the face.

Some types of eczema

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, for which the major symptom is an itchy, inflamed skin. This type of eczema is suspected to be caused by abnormalities in the immune system’s functions, and recurs without any fixed pattern except for suspected triggering factors.

Contact eczema or contact dermatitis manifests itself through redness together with an itching or burning sensation in the area of the skin that comes into contact with an allergen. This is also a very common form of eczema and the triggering allergen really depends on the person. However, there are common allergens which include poison ivy or poison oak.

Nummular eczema or nummular dermatitis manifests itself through small circular-shaped patches of reddened and severely itching skin normally found in the back, buttocks and lower extremities. This form of eczema normally affects elderly men and, while relatively uncommon, is usually a chronic condition for those affected by it.

Lichen simplex chronicus or neurodermatitis begins with itchiness on an area that, e.g., was bitten by an insect. It progresses to a chronic skin inflammation due to the intense itchiness. This form of eczema ultimately results to scaly patches of skin on various parts of the body, particularly the head and lower extremities.

Statis dermatitis affects the lower legs and is commonly associated with venous insufficiency, a circulatory problem. Occurring mostly among middle-aged and elderly people, this type of eczema is extremely irritating and results to a brownish-red discoloration of the legs. As a result of intense scratching, further symptoms such as blistering and oozing skin lesions are likely to manifest.