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October 22, 2015

Eczema, a reactive skin condition

Eczema, also called dermatitis, refers to several non-contagious skin conditions. The most common, atopic eczema, is triggered by contact with irritants (allergens, scented products, etc.).

Types of eczema

Here are the most common types of eczema.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is the most frequent type of inflammation of the skin. It is a temporary reaction triggered by an allergen or irritating product.

Atopic eczema

The most prevalent form of chronic eczema is atopic eczema, which involves an inherited hypersensitivity of the immune system. Sufferers often present other types of allergic disorders (e.g. food allergies, asthma, hay fever), in conjunction or alternation with the eczema.

Seborrhic eczema

Seborrhea is a form of eczema of the scalp that can also spread to the face, ears and chest. In adults, seborrhea is known as dandruff. In babies, it appears as cradle cap, a thick, yellowish skin rash.

Varicose eczema

Varicose eczema affects the lower legs of older adults. It is associated with poor circulation.

Symptoms

The symptoms of eczema are as follows:

  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Dry skin
  • Small blisters
  • Extreme itchiness

Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, can present similar symptoms. Do not hesitate to consult a health professional if you have any concerns on this subject.

Causes

Other than genetics, many factors can cause or aggravate eczema:

  • Contact with irritants (e.g. synthetic fibres, detergents, perfumes, etc.)
  • Allergens (e.g. foods, plants, animals, etc.)
  • Heat and humidity
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Skin infections

Young children are more likely to have eczema. However, 90 percent of them will outgrow their symptoms by adolescence.

Treatment

Since eczema cannot be cured, the treatment options, which vary according to the type of eczema you have, are intended to reduce the inflammation and discomfort associated with it.

Topical creams and ointments

Products containing cortisone, tar or immunomodulators, as well as moisturizing creams, can be used to reduce symptoms.

Antihistamines 

They can be used to reduce extreme itchiness, when the condition involves an allergic component.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays 

Exposure to UV rays, especially UVBs, is thought to be beneficial. But the risk of developing skin cancer and experiencing premature skin aging must, of course, be kept in mind.

Consult a health professional to learn more about the best treatment for your type of eczema.

Here are a few tips for people suffering from eczema:

  • Identify the irritants and allergens that trigger your flare-ups and try to avoid them.
  • Manage the humidity level in your home.
  • Keep skin slightly damp, as often possible.
  • Avoid scratching affected areas.
  • Wear clothing that lets skin breathe.

Psychological and emotional factors, such as a major stressful event, family conflicts or the loss of a loved one play an important role in eczema flare-ups. People with eczema should therefore practise relaxation activities or seek professional counselling to better understand and manage their stress.

Pharmacy services

Do you have questions about eczema and its treatment? Ask your pharmacist for help!