Eczema and dermatitis are often used interchangeably to describe conditions that cause the skin to become dry and flaky, itchy, inflamed or irritated. There are different forms of eczema, most commonly:
Contact dermatitis - inflammation of the skin that occurs when you come into contact with an irritating substance, such as cleaning agents, washing detergents, jewellery (most often jewellery containing nickel), bleach and latex. The skin will usually clear up within a few days or weeks, and if affected, you should avoid the substance responsible for the reaction.
Atopic eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is the most common type - it often runs in families and is linked to other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. Atopic eczema is more common in children, often developing before the age of one, however, it may also develop for the first time in adults. Although it’s usually a long-term condition, it can improve or even clear completely. About 2 in 3 children with atopic eczema will grow out of it by their mid teens.
Atopic eczema causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red. It affects people in different ways- some may only have small patches of dry skin, but others may experience widespread red, inflamed skin all over the body. People with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable as well as flare ups, when symptoms can become severe. It most often affects the hands and wrists, the folds of the elbows and knees and the face and scalp in children.
Causes of atopic eczema
Today, the exact cause of atopic eczema still remains unknown. Atopic eczema often occurs in people who get allergies. “Atopic” means sensitivity to allergens. It is seen to run in families and progress alongside other conditions such as asthma and hay fever.
What triggers atopic eczema?
The symptoms of atopic eczema often have certain triggers, such as soaps, detergents, stress (e.g. during teething) and even the weather. Sometimes food allergies can trigger a flare up, especially in young children with severe eczema. If you think you have atopic eczema it is advised to keep a food diary to try to determine whether a specific food causes your symptoms to become worse.
Treatment of Eczema
What treatment options can I avail of?
1. Emollients (moisturising treatments and emollient washes) – are used on a daily basis to hydrate dry skin. We recommend La Roche Posay Lipikar which in available in below varieties;
Lipikar Xerand for Hands: moisturises dry and chapped hands
Lipikar Syndet AP+: a gentle body wash for dry skin suitable for the whole family including baby’s sensitive and delicate skin.
Lipikar Baume AP+: a moisturising balm for very dry skin suitable for the whole family.
2. Topical corticosteroids – used to reduce swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups of eczema. Hydrocortisone 1% cream is available over the counter for adults and children over 12 years old. Hydrocortisone cream should be used sparingly and prolonged use (more than one week) should be under medical supervision only
3. Oral antihistamines- antihistamines e.g. Zirtek liquid and Cetriz allergy tablets can help with the scratching and itching associated with eczema.
We also have many other products at Hickey’s Pharmacy to suit the whole family. From creams and lotions to soap substitutes. In addition to La Roche-Posay, we stock CeraVe emollient products tailored to suit the needs of the whole family, Oilatum Bath and the Aveeno and E45 ranges.
Patients should avoid triggers as much as possible and avoid scratching. Soaps and perfumed products should be avoided.
Contact or irritant dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance or ‘irritant’, such as soaps detergents, solvents, or even regular contact with water. Treatment of contact dermatitis is largely the same as for atopic eczema. An emphasis is also placed on avoiding contact with the irritant substance.
If you think you have any form of eczema, you should treat it appropriately to avoid infection.
For a full consultation or to find out more visit your local Hickey’s Pharmacy where our expert teams can help you.
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