Art & Research: Grace Noonan
Further Reading Literature: Grace Noonan
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that can make your skin red and itchy. It’s a long lasting (aka “chronic”) condition that is common in children but can flare up throughout adolescence and childhood (Mayo Clinic 2020). Over 31 million Americans have some form of eczema and is not contagious, meaning it can not be passed from person to person by contact (National Eczema Association). There are 7 types of eczema including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, neurodermatitis, and stasis dermatitis (Eczema HQ 2021).
Common symptoms of eczema include dry skin, itching (also called “pruritus”), red to brownish-gray patches, bumps that may leak fluid and crust over, and raw/swollen skin from scratching (Mayo Clinic 2020). These dry patches of skin are typically found on the hands, feet, ankle, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, and inside the bends of your elbows and knees.
Your skin stays healthy by staying moist and keeping out bacteria, irritants, and allergens. However, eczema is linked to a gene variation that reduces the skin’s ability to protect against these irritants, and as a result, the skin “flares up” (Healthline 2020). There are some other general irritants, such as dry air, extreme temperatures, harsh soap, detergents, metals like nickel, and emotional stress (National Eczema Association).
Types of Eczema
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema and typically appears during childhood and goes away by adulthood. Many people with this type also have asthma and hay fever (the three conditions together are referred to as an atopic triad) (Healthline 2020). Contact dermatitis occurs when skin comes in contact with an irritant and becomes inflamed. When someone intensely itches their skin and actually ends up damaging nerve endings in the skin, this is referred to as neurodermatitis. Dyshidrotic eczema displays small fluid filled blisters on a person’s fingers, palms, toes, and feet that can leave the skin looking cracked and scaly. Nummular eczema is unique in that it looks like coin-shaped spots that are triggered by bites, dry skin, or chemical burns. Seborrheic dermatitis is another type of eczema that presents itself near oil-producing areas on the back, nose, scalp, and more and could be related to hormone and stress levels. Finally, stasis dermatitis results from reduced blood flow in the veins and fluid leaking out of the veins (Eczema HQ 2021).
Although there is no known cure for eczema, there are many preventative strategies that can help reduce the symptoms. First, moisturizing the skin at least twice a day with creams, ointments, or lotions can help ease the dryness and itchiness. Other ways include identifying your personal triggers, taking shorter showers/baths, using gentle soaps, and drying yourself carefully (Mayo Clinic 2020).