Daily life-changing care

Eczema

​Eczema is a skin disease that can occur at any age. Since it is a very common condition, (affecting approximately 20% of children and 3 to 4% of adults) and relatively benign, the general public tend to downplay the seriousness of eczema. At the same time, there are many misconceptions surrounding the issue. Do you or one your close friends or family have eczema? If so, you'll know that eczema is a disease in its own right that can often cause physical and psychological damage. Would you like some precise and detailed information about eczema? 

What you should know about eczema

Eczema is a chronic and inflammatory dermatosis or skin disease. It alternates between active periods known as flare-ups and periods of remission with no (or very few) symptoms. 

However, this is only a general definition, as there are several types of eczema. The most well-known form is atopic eczema which mainly affects very young children.

In adults, eczema can manifest in numerous forms: localized outbreak on the face and neck, hand eczema, generalized eczema, etc.  More often than not, the condition has been present since childhood but it can also occur suddenly in adults. In pregnant women, it is impossible to predict in advance if eczema will improve, or conversely, be aggravated during pregnancy.  

Some of the other most common forms of eczema are : contact eczema, where lesions appear specifically after prolonged contact with an allergenic substance, and chronic hand eczema, which is most commonly caused and/or aggravated by irritants, especially in the workplace.

In all cases, rest assured: eczema is not contagious. 

What are the causes of eczema?

​Everyone with eczema dreams about it: finding a single unique cause responsible for their lesions. However, the reality is often very different, with not one but several causes of eczema.

Stress is often blamed but it is not systematically responsible, quite simply because eczema is not a psychosomatic disorder (meaning it does not result from the mind affecting the body).  Unfortunately, far too often, people can be heard saying "eczema, it's all in the head". Eczema is not in the head but in the skin!

Perspiration can cause certain flare-ups and this requires implementation of preventive measures, for example, when playing sport.

Eczema can be linked to allergies.  This is especially the case with contact eczema, although the substance responsible is often difficult to identify. In atopic eczema, the allergy is often less specific and closer to a heightened sensitivity. It is determined genetically rather than being an allergy in the true sense. Heredity plays a major role in atopic eczema.

Symptoms of an eczema flare-up

​An eczema flare-up is characterized by red plaques which are not clearly defined, meaning the edges are not distinct. The plaques can alternate between being swollen and oozing, or conversely, dry and rough. Skin affected by eczema is sore, it stings, it burns, and mainly it itches.

When people have eczema, it is often difficult for them to remember not to scratch and aggravate the situation. Another major symptom of eczema is skin dryness, especially in the case of atopic eczema. This dryness can spread from head to toe, even in areas other than the eczema plaques.

What is infantile eczema?

Eczema can occur in the first few months of being born. Before the age of 2, eczema mainly affects the outside of the limbs, the torso and the cheeks. After age 2, the condition mainly affects the skin folds: neck, elbows, knees, wrists, ankles, etc.

In cases of eczema in children, a physician should be consulted to make an official diagnosis and prescribe suitable treatment. The physician and afterward the pharmacist are there to help the family fully understand and integrate the treatment into their daily life.

Cleansing is also a major factor in treatment. Patients with eczema should preferably take quick showers, in warm water, and using a cleansing product specifically for atopic skin.
 

Living with eczema day to day

Basic treatment for eczema involves administering topical corticosteroids for inflammatory flare-ups and emollients over the long-term to strengthen and protect the skin. There are other treatments available, prescribed on a case-by-case basis by dermatologists. In the case of contact eczema, avoiding all contact with the substance is essential in order to control the eczema.

The various eczema treatments available cannot cure the disease but they help limit the occurrence of flare-ups and alleviate symptoms, especially itching. Eczema can also disappear spontaneously, for example, as a child gets older. 

There are various tips for reducing itching: they are predominantly based on cold treatments but can also involve keeping hands busy, for example, with a foam ball.  It is important to avoid scratching to reduce the risk of secondary infection and scarring.

Taking care of your skin, i.e. with gentle cleansing and then moisturizing, must become a daily reflex. Adapting the environment should not involve setting very strict or expensive rules, instead it should rely on common sense: vacuum regularly, wear clothes made from natural fibers, opt for a hypoallergenic detergent and limit the use of softeners.

Some questions crop up again and again, especially in relation to food. It is true that some cases of eczema are linked to food allergies, however this must not lead to patients adopting highly restrictive diets because there is a risk of nutritional deficiencies, particularly in growing children. 

Medicinal treatment and following simple steps for healthy living can limit the number of flare-ups and improve quality of life.

Areas affected by eczema

Eczema can affect all areas of the body. 

Eczema on the stomach can develop in the first few months of life and will often spread over the whole area. It can also occur on localized areas, such as the belly button.

When on the arms, eczema occurs on the outer sides and parts that stick out, or conversely in the skin folds, such as the elbow and wrist folds. 

In cases of eyelid eczema or palpebral eczema the surface affected is small but this can be particularly visible and difficult to live with day-to-day. The same can be said of hand eczema: shaking someone's hand becomes a huge ordeal, causing shame and discomfort.

Eczema commonly affects the face and neck, especially in adults. This causes a great deal of embarrassment, and sometimes it's difficult to cope with other people staring. The nape of the neck and ears can also be affected.