Eczema: everything you need to know about the skin condition
Eczema is the most common inflammatory skin disease affecting around one in twelve adults in Ireland. Although eczema can't be cured, it can be managed.
Other names for eczema include atopic dermatitis and atopic eczema.
How can you recognise eczema?
Eczema symptoms include itchy, red, and dry skin caused by inflammation. Although it’s most commonly found in children, eczema can occur in adults too.
Eczema can affect any part of the skin, including the face, but most commonly affects areas such as the joints at the elbows and knees, as well as the wrists and neck. The skin affected by the condition is usually red and dry. The itchiness can lead to the sufferer scratching constantly at the skin which can lead to scratch marks and bleeding. In cases where a flare up is severe, the skin may be moist and blister.
What causes eczema?
Although eczema is believed to be hereditary, there are a number of ‘triggers’ which can irritate the skin if susceptible to the skin condition. Some of the more common triggers are:
- Wool or synthetic fibres
- Soaps and detergents
- Some perfumes and cosmetics
- Substances such as chlorine, mineral oil, or solvents
- Dust or sand
- Cigarette smoke
- House dust mites, moulds, grasses, plant pollens, foods, pets.
- Being unwell, for example having a common cold can make eczema flare up
How can you treat eczema?
Skin that is dehydrated and itchy needs to be constantly moisturised to protect the skin barrier. Take time to moisturise your skin on a daily basis using a cream recommended by your pharmacist. Avoid any cream with scents as this will include added chemicals - which could cause further irritation to the skin.
In more severe cases, contact your doctor or book an appointment to discuss medicated treatment with a dermatologist. Other forms of treatment may include steroid creams, antihistamines or phototherapy of the affected areas.
The Irish Skin Foundation has a Useful Tips section on their website for ways to reduce irritation to the skin. These include:
- Always keep fingernails short
- Wear cotton clothing where possible
- Use soap free products for bathing
- Use specially formulated shampoos
- Read the ingredients on cosmetics
- Use a non bio washing powder and do not use fabric conditioner
- Do not use chemical sprays and plug-ins around the home
- Cut down on harsh cleaning products
- Shower immediately after swimming in a chlorinated pool and apply a moisturiser
- Use heavy protective gloves when working with paint or chemicals and wear a mask
- Sore skin and sand don’t mix so be careful with children while on holidays or on a trip to the seaside
- Avoid having anybody smoke in the home, avoid houses where there are smokers