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)- this 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 in some children as they get older.
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.
Treatment of Eczema
Emollients- these are moisturising treatments that act to reduce the loss of water from the skin. They are used for dry and scaly skin conditions, can be used from birth onwards, and should be applied regularly and liberally to the skin. To get the best from emollient therapy, consider using ‘complete emollient therapy’. This will form an important part of treatment and prevention especially in atopic eczema. This means using products to wash with or add to bath water as well as moisturising at least twice daily. Soaps and perfumed products should be avoided.
Products available include the La Roche Posay Range Lipikar body skincare range, which is specifically designed for very dry to eczema-prone skin and can be used for all ages. It works to immediately relieve skin discomfort and with regular use decrease the re-occurrence of flare-ups. Minimalist formulas make it suitable for use on even the most sensitive skin, including babies. The range includes products for washing and moisturising. Oilatum Bath, Aveeno range and E45 range are alternative emollient ranges. For contact dermatitis, emollients can be used to soothe the dry skin while a corticosteroid cream e.g. Hydrocortisone 1% can be used to reduce the inflammation of the skin. An antihistamine, such as Cetriz, can be taken to relieve the associated itch.
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