Eczema: cause, treatment and prevention

Eczema is a collective name for various skin conditions in which the skin is inflamed. Many forms of eczema are accompanied by red, itchy, blister-covered areas on the skin. There are different types of eczema, of which atopic eczema, contact eczema and seborrheic eczema are common. With eczema, it is important to take good care of the skin and, if necessary, use an ointment or cream from your doctor.

  • What is eczema?
  • Symptoms of eczema
  • Eczema, how do you get it?
  • Eczema, how do you get rid of it?


What is eczema?

Eczema, also called dermatitis , is a collective name for a large number of different forms of skin conditions . With eczema, the epidermis and dermis are inflamed. Most forms of eczema are characterized by red, itchy, blister-covered patches of skin. If the eczema has been present for a longer period of time, the skin may be slightly thickened due to frequent scratching. Eczema is usually not a one-off thing, it often returns intermittently. Eczema is a common condition, almost 25% of all skin conditions in adults involve some form of eczema. Eczema itself is not hereditary. However, the increased susceptibility to developing eczema is hereditary.

Types of eczema

In practice, a distinction is often made between different types of eczema. The different types of eczema are mainly distinguished on the basis of their characteristic appearance and the cause. Common forms of eczema are atopic eczema, contact eczema and seborrheic eczema.
Constitutional eczema
Constitutional eczema is the most common form of eczema. Constitutional eczema is also referred to as endogenous eczema, atopic eczema , allergic eczema, dewworm and neurodermatitis. This form of eczema mainly occurs in children and is mainly located on the face, back of the knees, elbow folds, wrists, hands and upper legs. The cause of atopic eczema is not known. Many people with constitutional also suffer from allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
Contact eczema
Contact eczema is a form of eczema that develops in response to skin contact with certain substances. Within contact eczema, a distinction is often made between two groups: orthoergic or irritative eczema and allergic eczema. In irritative eczema, skin irritation occurs due to contact with more or less aggressive substances such as soaps, cleaning agents and chemicals. In allergic eczema, skin irritation occurs as a result of an allergy to certain substances, such as nickel or chromium. Well-known triggers of contact dermatitis are make-up, certain plants (such as hogweed) and jewelry. The eczema is usually limited to the part of the skin that has been in contact with the substance.
Seborrheic eczema
Seborrheic eczema is a form of skin rash that is common in both children and adults. In children, this form of eczema often occurs on the scalp and buttocks, in adults it usually affects the scalp, the center of the forehead and the eyebrows. The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, although it appears to be linked to increased growth of a yeast that naturally occurs on the skin. Stress and illness can trigger or worsen seborrheic eczema. Seborrheic eczema is more common in autumn and winter.

Symptoms of eczema

The exact symptoms of eczema depend on the form of eczema:

  • Constitutional eczema: itchy skin rash with redness, flaking and sometimes blisters and fissures, usually in the skin folds
  • Contact eczema: skin reaction in those parts of the skin exposed to certain substances, redness, flaking, blisters, cracks and itching
  • Seborrheic eczema: flaky spots, the skin is often somewhat red and greasy


Eczema, how do you get it?

Atopic eczema has a hereditary factor: the chance that someone will develop atopic eczema is many times higher if one of both parents has or has had similar complaints. Contact dermatitis occurs after the skin is exposed to certain allergy-inducing or irritant substances. The cause of seborrheic eczema is not yet known, although the symptoms are associated with an increased growth of a yeast that naturally occurs on the skin.

Eczema, how do you get rid of it?

What can you do yourself?

  • There are a number of tips that can help prevent and treat eczema:
  • Don’t bathe too often: long, hot baths or showers rinse the protective layer from the skin, causing it to dry out and become irritated. Use as little soap as possible, as it can dry out the skin. After the bath or shower, gently pat the skin dry and apply a moisturizer.
  • Moisturizer: Eczema skin is often dehydrated, so apply a moisturizer regularly to maintain your skin’s moisture levels.
  • Also consider food allergies: hypersensitivity to milk, wheat and other food products can trigger eczema. Keep a food diary and cut out one specific nutrient for a few weeks to see the effect.
  • Continue using medication: many people stop applying a special eczema cream after a few days , usually because the eczema seems to have disappeared. However, the medicine has not yet been able to exert its full effect, which means that the eczema can quickly return. Therefore, stick to the duration of use as described in the package leaflet.
  • Keep nails short: to avoid scratching yourself completely, it is wise to keep your nails as short as possible. Scratching increases the risk of infections, which means you are further away from home.
  • Avoid creams with alcohol: alcohol dries out the skin.

With contact eczema, it is important to find out which substances cause the eczema and to avoid these substances in the future. For example, only wear nickel-free earrings if you are allergic to nickel and wear gloves when working with irritating cleaning products. It is also wise to keep the skin well oiled with an ointment or cream.

What can the doctor do?

If the eczema does not disappear with the above tips, it is wise to contact your doctor. This can advise you on the use of fine ointments and creams. If necessary, he can prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug. Often such ointments contain hydrocortisone or triamcinolone. In the case of contact dermatitis, if you cannot clearly determine what causes the contact dermatitis, a patch test can be done. During a patch test, substances known to regularly cause allergic reactions are applied one by one in diluted form to a small disc on your skin. After 48 hours, the discs are removed and it can be seen whether and where an allergic skin reaction has occurred.
For persistent seborrheic eczema, your doctor can prescribe a cream or lotion containing imidazole . This substance kills yeasts and molds. Another option is a corticosteroid cream .

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