Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis is a long term itchy inflammation of the skin. It is not contagious, meaning it CAN NOT be spread through casual contact. Eczema can affect almost any area of the body, but it most often appears on the hands, arms and behind the knees. Many people who suffer from this skin condition endure flare-ups periodically and then it subsides for a time.
The cause of Eczema, is as yet unknown, but many studies indicate that it results from a malfunction in the body's immune system. The term Atopic refers to a group of diseases where it may be common to get other allergic conditions in conjunction with the primary breakout. These may be conditions such as Hay Fever and Asthma, both of which are relate to the immune system and the bodies reaction to histamines.
Eczema usually begins in early childhood, around age 5 or so, and may continue well into adulthood. The most common symptoms are dry, itchy skin and rashes on the hands, face, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and even on the feet. Itching is one of the most important symptoms of Eczema. Scratching and rubbing in response to itching irritates the skin, this in turn increases the inflammation, and the increased inflammation actually increases the itchiness so the problem compounds itself. This itching really becomes a problem when the sufferer is sleeping when conscious control over scratching is lost. The effected skin may be red and scaly, feel thick and leathery, may contain small raised bumps, or even leak fluid and become crusty and infected.
This damaged skin loses moisture which allows the skin become extremely dried out thus reducing its protective abilities. It is this loss of protection combined with the abnormal immune system that may lead to infections caused by Staphylococcus and other viruses or bacteria.
There are several different factors that may effect the severity of your breakout.
Irritants and Allergens can aggravate your skin increasing the itch-scratch cycle and make things worse. Examples of irritants would be things that come into contact with the skin such as dish soaps, cleaning products, perfumes, ill-fitting clothes, and even cosmetics. Soaps have a drying effect on the skin and tend to make itching worse.
Ill-fitting clothes can rub against your skin, causing it to become even more irritated than it already is. Allergens are more internal factors that may have an effect on breakouts. These types of breakouts are due to an irregularity in the immune system.
It is not clear if these factors are due to inhalation or direct contact, but things like dander, pollen, and mold may all be contributing factors. Over time people effected with Eczema may learn what triggers their outbreaks this knowledge can help them avoid those things and help make their lives and dealing with their disease easier. Some foods may also be triggers. Allergic reactions to certain foods may cause skin inflammation which could either trigger an outbreak or worsen the one that may already be affecting your skin.
Healing the skin and keeping it healthy are important factors to remember when dealing with Eczema. Working with your local Portland Eczema Specialist will help you to developing a treatment plan that works for your particular case. Not all people are the same, thus treatments need to be tailored to fit each individual. The dermatologist will devise a plan that is based on the patient's age, symptoms, and general health. The treatment plan developed by your Portland Dermatologist has two main goals, heal the skin and prevent future flare-ups. Treatment may include a mix of different things, topical steroid creams and ointments, oral medications and steroids, lifestyle changes and careful monitoring of what seems to have caused the last few outbreaks. While there is no cure for Eczema, the disease can be managed with proper care and a good treatment plan.