Eczema is a skin condition characterised by dryness, itchiness, and redness on the skin a.k.a ‘atopic dermatitis’. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, wherein ‘atopic’ refers to a person’s tendency to get allergic reactions due to chain of hypersensitive allergens and ‘dermatitis’ refers to inflammation of the skin. It is a common and a non-contagious skin problem. Treatments can help manage symptoms, but there is no particular cure. On the other side, children are frequently affected by eczema but it often improves with time, with lesser symptoms as they age.
Some of the commonly observable eczema symptoms include-
- Redness and itchy skin
- Blisters that contain liquid
- Cracked skin
- Thick and rough skin texture
Eczema can have a long-term emotional impact, making it difficult to retain self confidence. It is a lifelong struggle that ends only with acceptance. Therefore, it is essential to embrace your skin condition with positivity and move forward in life. Some of the common emotional symptoms observed in people suffering from eczema are-
- Social and psychological aggression. This affects every dimension of an individual’s life leading to social, physical and mental complexities.
- Depression due to lower self esteem
- A sense of exclusion and discrimination
- Disturbed sleep pattern often triggered by anxiety.
It is essential to understand the emotional roller coaster, eczema prone people go through. It is crucial to acknowledge normalancy towards the social drama created towards eczema. To understand and accept that eczema is simply a skin reaction or a genetic driven issue can help in creating awareness and accepting the ways of nature.
Difference between eczema and atopic dermatitis
Eczema and atopic dermatitis are often used interchangeably. However, eczema comes under the ambit of dermatitis. Dermatitis describes a broader spectrum of skin irritants that includes rashes, redness, dandruff, blisters, acne etc.
When such an allergic reaction is prolonged with a longer display of symptoms, it can be referred to as eczema.
Why does atopic dermatitis (eczema) happen?
If your ancestors suffered from allergies, there is high risk it may get passed on to you. Some of the major factors that contribute to the dermatitis (eczema) are-
- Genetic makeup: According to the National Institute of Health, there are two common variations in a gene called ‘KIF3A’ that are responsible for an impaired skin barrier, causing excessive water loss and promoting atopic dermatitis.
- Environmental stressors: Hypersensitive skin can irritate you in a variety of ways. Release from tobacco smoke, pollen, woolen garments, harsh scents and air pollution may trigger these reactions making your skin feel itchy due to less humidity. Sweat due to increased temperatures may also actively contribute.
- Hyper response by your immune system: If you suffer from eczema, your body’s immune system is hypersensitive to various allergens and irritants. This reaction causes the skin to be inflamed triggering a series of other symptoms.
What triggers eczema?
Flare-ups can be reduced by identifying and avoiding factors that trigger these skin reactions. Your eczema symptoms could be triggered by a variety of components. These can differ from one person to the next. Some of the common triggers are
- Soaps and detergents, including shampoo, washing-up liquid, and bubble bath irritants
- Allergens in the environment, such as cold and dry weather, moisture
- House dust mites, pet fur, pollen, and mould
- Hard water (contains high levels of calcium and magnesium) may make the symptoms of eczema worse. It is more alkaline in nature which disturbs skin's barrier functions and leaves skin dry, parched and irritated
- Wool and synthetic fabrics
- Food allergies like soya, egg, milk or wheat.
How to identify it?
Commonly observed visual symptoms of eczema are tiny bumps on the outer surface of the skin, making it crusty and ultimately merging the skin, giving out a network of scaly dry patchy texture.
When these patches dry out, the skin decolorizes, leaving a darkened skin tone. Prolonged sitting or scratching on the exposed area may worsen your condition. Affected skin may be dark brown to greyish and even reddish in color. Other common visible symptoms include-
- Areas that are dry and scaly
- Bumpy, leaking, crusted bumps
- Swelling and warm burning sensation
In children - How to know if your baby has eczema?
Age is just a number for eczema. Both children and adults are prone to eczema. It frequently manifests itself as patches of red skin in babies. Every baby's eczema is presented differently.
Targeted area: It can happen anywhere on the body of children. It usually affects their cheeks, as well as their arm and leg joints.
Preventive measures to tackle atopic dermatitis (eczema)
Atopic dermatitis can last a long time. To control it, you may need to try a variety of treatments over months or years. It is likely for the symptoms to reappear, even after successful treatments.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) cannot be cured but managed by the following these recommendations-
After cleansing your skin, always remember to moisturise. Keeping your skin moisturised aids in the formation of a protective barrier between you and your surroundings. Prefer a fragrance-free, nontoxic eczema lotion for the most sensitive skin.
2. Choose skin care products that are fragrance-free
A flare-up might be triggered by fragrance. To avoid this, only use "fragrance-free" items. Select products that are-
- Petroleum free
- Enriched with plant derived ingredients
- Steroid free
- Relief from dryness
3. Wear loose-fitting garments made of 100 percent cotton
Cotton is a comfort cloth for the skin giving it ample space to breathe. Avoid wearing tight woollen clothing during a flare up.
4. How does atopic dermatitis affect skin barrier?
Usually when a skin barrier is disrupted, the irritants and microbes have an easy entry to the skin. This is why restoring skin barrier is essential to atopic dermatitis treatments. This includes application of emollients, creams and lotions that restores the barrier function by providing the required water content and lipid structure.
What are the ingredients to look for in effective skin barrier repair cream?
Let’s follow through -
This is a plant-based ingredient derived from Centella Asiatica plant's leaves. It is known to be a part of the traditional medicine system in many countries. Creams containing the madecassoside ingredient relaxes damaged skin and strengthens the skin barrier against various external stimuli. It is known to-
- Repairs damaged skin
- Relieves irritations
- Aids in skin barrier strengthening
- Firms drooping skin and improves skin tone
GLA (Borage Oil)
Borage oil is an extract derived from the Borago officinalis plant's seeds. It is renowned for its high concentration of gamma linoleic acid (GLA). This fatty acid is suggested to aid in the reduction of inflammation linked skin disorders like eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and neurodermatitis. GLA is known to lessons skin inflammation and regulate immunity by correcting deficits in skin lipid networks.
Ceramides I,III, VI
This unique concoction of ceramides 1,2 and 6 is highly effective in replacing the hampered ceramides in the skin by minimising moisture loss and improving hydration. This perfect lipid network forms a protective layer on the skin and drives out the pollutants. It also repairs the damaged skin and makes it resistant to the serious symptoms.
There is no ultimate solution to eczema but the right perspective can help you manage it with pride. You are not responsible for eczema or for your children’s eczema, it is simply an interplay of your genetic makeup or a hypersensitive reaction to an external stimulus. Let’s embrace this condition with effective management solutions, suitable skin care products and an open heart.
Don't let this condition define you, instead let it strengthen you. Flaunt every scar with pride.