Eczema refers to the chronic condition caused by the inflammation of the skin. There are different types of eczema, and the most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. This condition is characterized by red, dry itchy skin, which often becomes cracked and can be found in different parts of the body. It can affect both males and females and people of all races. People with atopic dermatitis are prone to other forms of allergic diseases, including hay fever and asthma. Those who develop this condition in childhood soon outgrow it by the age of ten years. Few people may continue having the symptoms even in adulthood. Itchy, dry, and reddish skin is the most common symptom of atopic dermatitis. Rashes are very often preceded by itchy skin in the area.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Patches of dry skin found in hands, neck, face, and legs
- Dry and reddish skin in areas like the knees and elbows
- Cracked and leathery skin
- Dry patches that open up forming crusts
- Itching that worsens in the night
- Reddish inflamed skin
- Blisters with fluid oozing out of the cracked skin
- Small areas with raised, reddish bumps
The most common areas where dry patches are seen include the hands, feet, wrists, face, neck, and chest; yet, the patches may also develop in other parts of the body. Those who develop the symptoms around the eyes often lose their eyebrows and eyelashes.
Those who already have the symptoms may often have periods of flare-ups, which are often characterized by:
- Itchy skin
- Warm skin in the affected areas
- Scaly skin
- Appearance of blisters
- Bacterial infection of the blisters
The actual cause of atopic dermatitis and other types of eczema is not yet known. It is considered to be an exaggerated response of the immune system to a specific trigger. The symptoms are the response of the immune system when exposed to the trigger. It is also found to be running in families. Triggers can be external like pollen or fur, or internal like hormones and stress. Too hot or cold conditions are found to cause a flare up in some people. Too much stress is one of the most common causes for worsening the symptoms of eczema.