Eczema: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Eczema is defined as a group of conditions that cause one's skin to become red, inflamed, and itchy. There are two main types of eczema: atopic eczema and contact dermatitis.

Atopic Dermatitis (Baby Eczema)

Atopic dermatitis, often referred to as infantile eczema or baby eczema, occurs in the first few months of life. It is characterized by skin inflammation with dryness and is accompanied by redness and itching.

The inflammation can be found on the face, scalp, behind the ears, behind the knee folds, under the armpits, and in the groin.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction of the skin caused by direct contact with an allergen, and it most commonly affects adults. It presents itself as small red patches and blisters accompanied by intense itching.

It occurs exactly where the skin was in contact with the allergenic substance, the most frequent of which being nickel found in costume jewelry. Common reaction zones related to a jewelry-related allergy are the ears, finger, and navel (due to piercings and trouser fastenings).

Causes of Contact Dermatitis

While the cause of atopic dermatitis remains unknown, the causes of contact dermatitis are usually related to a range of products.

The list of common offenders includes: nickel, found in costume jewelry (including plated and gray gold), buttons on jeans, watch bracelets, coins, etc.; cobalt, chromium, rubber, glue, etc.; adhesive plaster; hair dye and styling products; cosmetic products, such as nail varnish, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.; some topical medications, which are applied locally; perfumed moisturizing creams; cleaning products, detergents, and washing powders; and clothing dyes.

Allergy Patch Testing for Eczema

Where the reaction is obvious, patch testing is not normally carried out. However, for accuracy or where there is doubt, patch testing is appropriate and is often recommended.

Patch testing for simple allergens can be carried by your general practitioner. The process involves a variety of products being applied to the skin and the observation of the results of this application. For more complex allergy testing, a referral to a specialist is necessary.

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