Our skin is our biggest organ; with a 3mm thickness, the average human has between 1.5 and 2 square metres of skin covering their muscle structure- that’s a huge area for us to look after! And when our skin suffers, we really feel it- from cuts and bruises, to a huge variety of conditions that are potential problems to us, there is nothing like uncomfortable skin to make us feel miserable.

So what if we develop a condition that causes itchiness and red, scaly skin? Our confidence is bound to take a knock; this is the exact reality for the vast number of people ( 1 in 5 children, and 1 in 12 adults) who suffer from eczema.

What Causes It?

acne prone girl's back

Eczema, or dermatitis to give it its other name, is a condition of the skin that results most commonly in red, scaly and itchy patches, that may weep or bleed depending on their severity.

Eczema is extremely individualized, and differs from one person to the next. In some cases, an allergic reaction to an environmental factor may cause a short period of discomfort, whereas for others, eczema is a life-long inherited condition that results in skin cells that do not behave normally, and cause reddened, itchy patches. This is known as atopic eczema.

Atopic Eczema:

In this chronic version of the skin condition, skin cells do not behave like healthy, normal cells, which are plump with water and surrounded by oils that act as a waterproof barrier. This barrier not only stops water escaping from the cells, it also stops bacteria getting in.

In eczematous patches, the skin cells are unable to retain water, and are unable to produce enough oils to keep any moisture in. Before long, this allows the shrinking of these unhealthy cells, which allows even more moisture to escape and leaves them open to infection!

The result? Dry, damaged skin that can then become further damaged when it comes into contact with external drying agents- soap, cosmetics, perfumes, household cleaners- in fact, the list is so vast that it is often incredibly difficult to know what will exacerbate the condition.

And because atopic eczema is inbuilt in your genes, you may find that eczema moves around your body- what was once a healthy, reliable patch of skin may turn into an eczematous area as skin cells are shed, and new, damaged cells replace them.

Is there A Cure?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for eczema at this time. All that we can do is manage the condition with a combination of treatments. Allergy testing is also available through a dermatologist, to find any agents that can trigger flare-ups; but these are fairly unreliable since the triggers can be wide-ranging. However, there are common triggers, such as dairy products, which may be worth avoiding to see if there is any improvement.

How Can You Treat it?

    If you suffer from chronic eczema, then you know the drill- slap on emollient creams every time you think about it, even if you’re not feeling itchy at the time. By creating an artificial oily barrier between your skin cells, you can help to keep any moisture in your skin cells that would otherwise be lost. Go for unperfumed moisturisers that are aimed at sensitive skin, and try coupling your emollient with aloe vera gel, for a soothing antibacterial boost.
    Whatever you do, do not skimp on the water you drink. Give your skin cells as much of a chance as possible to help themselves, by keeping as hydrated as you can. This also means cutting down on caffeinated drinks and alcohol, which will dry your skin out quicker than you can replace the fluids.
    These creams and ointments will be prescribed by your doctor, and help take the inflammation and itch of flare-ups down. Be aware though, that steroids used for long periods of time can be hugely damaging to your skin. If you suffer from a mild case of eczema, you may find that your doctor is reluctant to give them to you, or will only give a low-strength cream. Be sure to always follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to these very powerful creams, and use them sparingly, in short courses.
    If you suffer from eczema, you may have noticed that your condition improves in the summer. This is because eczema responds very positively to UV light. UV light therapy is becoming an increasingly popular alternative treatment to steroids, and works well on eczema that covers a large area of the body, or that has stopped responding to other treatments. Make sure that this treatment is carried out with the supervision of a dermatologist, to reduce the risks associated with exposure to UV light, like burning and skin cancer.

Support Networks:

Chronic and severe eczema can be tiring and demoralizing. Sometimes is helps to hear tips and support from others who know what you are going through. Here are some online forums, which may provide some advice:

  1. http://www.eczema.org/
  2. http://www.talkeczema.com/
  3. http://www.nationaleczema.org/support
Michael Donelly

About Michael Donelly

Michael Donelly is Gnet's founder and occasionally posts information. If you'd like to get in touch about anything business related you can contact him on Twitter: @MichaelDonelly2. And if you like what you read here then why not sign up for our newsletter to get regular updates on your interests?

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