Did you know that one in five kids and one in twelve adults in Ireland have eczema and suffer in silence? With Eczema Awareness Week happening soon, the Irish Skin Foundation and leading skincare brand La Roche-Posay want to bring you the Truth about Eczema, symptoms, causes and possible treatments, so you no longer have to suffer in silence.
What is eczema?
Eczema affects one in every five children but can continue into adult life and currently affects one in twelve adults in Ireland. Simply put, eczema causes a dry, red, itchy rash; it may be scaly, weep, bleed or crust over. Eczema can be a chronic skin condition that comes and goes and can move from place to place on the body too.
Causes and triggers of eczema
Unfortunately the exact causes of eczema are unknown. Experts think that eczema is caused by a combination of factors including:
- environmental causes (certain foods, detergents, low humidity, carpet fibres, soaps, perfumes, clothing fabrics, dust and sweating)
- abnormal function of the immune system
- defects in the skin barrier that allow irritants or allergens in and more moisture out
- activities that may irritate the skin or make it sensitive
Atopic eczema is the most common form or eczema, it can run in families and often occurs alongside other atopic conditions including asthma and hay fever.
What are the early symptoms of eczema?
Eczema symptoms vary from person to person, but are almost always accompanied by an itch. In some cases a rash appears first, commonly on the face, hands, back of the knees, or feet, although this varies according to age. But often the itching will start before any rash shows up.
Infants commonly get a rash on the face, then as childhood progresses it affects the classical sites of the body creases also known as the flexures (wrists, back of knees), the antecubital fossae, (crook of your arm). The rash may be mild, moderate, or severe. It can also affect other areas of the body too.
Affected areas usually manifest as very dry, thickened, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, affected areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker. In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that happens mainly on the face and scalp, but eczema patches can appear anywhere.
What is the treatment for eczema?
A good daily skincare routine is vital in the management of eczema. To begin with, all types of eczema are treated in similar ways. This treatment is referred to as, emollient therapy, it simply means that very dry skin needs to be constantly moisturised in order to restore the skins’ barrier and prevent further dryness.
Unfortunately in many cases, emollient therapy on its own is not sufficient. If you are suffering the symptoms of eczema, you need to visit your GP or a Dermatologist who may recommend:
- topical steroids or oral steroids which are sometimes used for a short time
- antibiotics, if the skin is infected
- wet wraps (wet-wrap therapy involves wrapping wet bandages around the affected skin)
- phototherapy (this is not the same as using a “sun lamp” which is not recommended for eczema patients)
- topical immune-suppressants or topical immune-modulators
If the eczema has flared badly, complementary therapies may also help.
Can eczema be cured?
No, currently eczema can’t be cured, but there are many ways of controlling it.
For children suffering with eczema the good news is that most children with atopic eczema improve as they get older (75% are clear of eczema by their teens). However, many of those who have had eczema continue to have dry skin and need to avoid irritants that trigger the condition.
Eczema can persist into adulthood, although it should be controllable with the right treatment. For some adults who have persistent atopic eczema certain jobs that bring them into contact with irritant materials, such as catering, hairdressing or nursing are difficult.
Where can you get more advice on eczema?
If you or your child are experiencing the symptoms of eczema, consult your GP or a dermatologist. The Irish Skin Foundation website also has downloadable guides on eczema in children and adults and can be contacted on (01) 486-6280
Your pharmacist can also advise about daily care measures.
This information was brought to you by; The Irish Skin Foundation (ISF), a national charity to support people with all kinds of skin disease in Ireland; La Roche-Posay, a leading skincare brand who are launching a new treatment for eczema, LIPIKAR SYNDET AP+ and Dr. Niki Ralph, a consultant dermatologist at the Misericordiae University and Mater Private Hospitals, Dublin who had carried out extensive research into both the physical and psychological impacts this condition can have.