Identifying whether you have eczema
The first step to controlling eczema is being able to determine whether or not your skin condition is actually eczema.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition which is triggered when your immune system has an over reaction to something in your environment, or when there is emotional stress. The skin may become dry, inflamed, scaly and itchy. In some persons there is a wet form of eczema, where there are watery boils that may weep and leave the skin soggy.
There are several types of eczema. These are as follows:
• Atopic Eczema- Atopic eczema causes dry, itchy, irritated skin. Most people with atopic eczema develop it before age five. This skin condition tends to run in families. People who get atopic eczema usually have family members who have eczema, asthma, or hay fever. The skin can swell, crack, ooze, crust, and scale. The patches may be raised, scaly, dry and red. The skin may become thick with constant scratching.
• Contact Eczema -Contact with everyday objects causes this very common type of eczema. When the contact leads to irritated skin, the eczema is called irritant contact eczema. If an allergic reaction develops on the skin after exposure, it is called allergic contact eczema.
• Dyshidrotic Eczema-This occurs only on the palms of the hands, sides of the fingers, and soles of the feet. There is burning, an itching sensation and a blistering rash.
• Seborrheic Eczema- Usually beginning on the scalp as oily, waxy patches, this common type of eczema sometimes spreads to the face and beyond. A severe case, while rare, produces widespread lesions. Like most types of eczema, seborrheic eczema tends to flare in cold, dry weather.
• Nummular Eczema- Often appearing after a skin injury, such as a burn, abrasion, or insect bite, the hallmark of this common eczema is unique, coin-shaped (nummular) or oval lesions. One or many patches can develop that may last for weeks or months.
• Neuroeczema- develops when nerve endings in the skin become irritated, triggering a severe itch-scratch-itch cycle. Common causes of nerve irritation include an insect bite and emotional stress. The itch is intense and is usually worse when the person is resting or relaxing.
Understanding what triggers Eczema flare ups
What are Eczema triggers- these are things that cause eczema to develop or get worse.
• The triggers can be internal or external. Internal triggers are usually associated with things we ingest such as foods or inhale.
• External triggers are things that come into contact with the skin, or environmental factors.
• These ranges from Physical and chemical irritants, extremes of temperature, humidity, perfumes, to different types of fabrics, and even detergents used to wash any clothing or linen that comes in contact with the skin.
• Stressful situations can also lead to flare ups of eczema in those so predisposed.
• Our genetic make up, may make us more prone to developing eczema.
• Specific types of exposures are related to the development of the different types of eczema.
• Atopic Eczema -A complex array of factors are thought to contribute to the development of atopic eczema. These include genetics, the home environment, breakdown of the outer skin layer and a malfunctioning immune system.
• Contact eczema-occurs after frequent exposure to a mild irritant, such as dish washing liquid, and after brief exposure to a strong irritant, such as a strong acid.
• Dyshidrotic Eczema- This occurs only on the palms of the hands, sides of the fingers, and soles of the feet. The cause is generally unknown. However, believe that a person’s reaction to events occurring within the body (e.g., having another medical condition) and factors occurring outside the body (e.g., the weather) play a role. Excessive sweating does not cause Dyshidrotic eczema.
• Seborrheic Eczema- While the exact cause is not known, researchers believe that a number of factors interact to cause seborrhoea eczema. These factors include the genes we inherit, yeast that normally live on human skin, stress, climate, and overall general health.
• Nummular Eczema-Heightened sensitivity to some specific substances is thought to cause this type of eczema. Common triggers are nickel, mercury, rubber and formaldehyde.
• Neuroeczema- The specific cause is unknown, but certain specific things are thought to trigger neuroeczema. These in clued but are not limited to:
1. Clothing worn tightly and made of synthetic fabric or wool
2. Dry skin
3. Period of intense stress or emotional trauma
4. Poor blood flow
5. Scar, especially a keloid-type scar
How to identify the triggers of your Eczema
• The easiest way to do this is to keep a diary of all foods you ingest each day, places that you go which are associated with specific exposure, products you use on your skin, cleaning agent used in your environment and on the clothing you wear.
• It is important to be very detailed in itemizing your exposures.
• Do not forget to record any stressful events or situations, as stress can trigger flare ups.
• You should then record the dates of any flare-ups of your eczema.
• After reviewing this over a period of time you will come to notice what exposures preceded flare-ups of your eczema condition.
• After you think you have identified the possible triggers, the next step is to use a process of elimination to see if you can identify the specific trigger.
• Remove one item from your diet/environment at a time and check to see if there is any improvement in your eczema after about 4 weeks.
• If there is no improvement in your eczema, add back in the item that you had taken out, and then remove a second item.
• Repeat the process over and over until you have identified you specific trigger.
• Sometimes this process may not identify your specific trigger.
Remove the trigger
• If possible eliminate the trigger identified from the process you carried out in part 3 from your diet/environment.
• This can be difficult depending on the trigger.
• If the trigger is a food, eliminating this food from your diet is easier than if it is the pollen from a particular plant that grows in the area where you live.
• When the trigger is an integral part of your environment, you may need to remove yourself from the trigger.
• When you have been unable to identify your specific trigger, it is wise to try to avoid triggers known to be associated with your specific type of eczema.
Care of your Skin.
• Dry skin contributes to eczema and can cause it to become worse.
• Cleanse the skin with gentle moisturising cleansers.
• Avoid the use of soap, and skin products with fragrances.
• Use tepid water for your baths, avoid hot water.
• Avoid frequent baths.
• Keep cool, but if possible avoid air conditioners which dry the skin.
• Drink plenty of water to moisturise the skin from the inside.
• Avoid synthetic fabrics next to the skin, use natural cotton garments instead.
• Use natural moisturisers frequently to keep the skin moist. Examples are body butters containing shea, almond, coconut, avocado and mango among others.
• Be gentle with your skin. Don’t scratch it. Although eczema causes the skin to itch in the affected areas, scratching makes it worse.
• Scratching can cause the skin to become thick, darker and it can cause it to crack and bleed.
• Take precautions to try to minimize your scratching. Keep your fingernails cut short. If necessary, wear gloves at night to prevent scratching in your sleep.
• If the skin is broken or infected, or you suffer from wet eczema you should consult your doctor.