Eczema is a skin condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, cracked, and red. Sometimes, blisters may develop. Often, the word eczema is used specifically to refer to atopic dermatitis, which is the most common type of eczema. Eczema can be triggered by environmental factors like smoke and pollen or by foods. It is not contagious.
In almost all cases if you have eczema, your skin will itch before rashes develop. Patches of thickened dry skin will appear on your face, legs, hands, and neck. They can appear on any other part of the body too such as within creases of knees and elbows.
The specific cause of eczema is unknown. However, scientists believe that it is caused by genetic and environmental factors. Certain irritants can trigger the disease such as certain foods, pollens, pollutants, microbes, temperatures, and hormones. Children are more likely to develop eczema if a parent has had it or any other atopic disease.
A detailed medical history is important for diagnosing eczema. Your doctor will ask several questions to determine your medical and family history and to know about the signs and symptoms of the disease. A dermatologist will check when the rash appears, where it appears, and how often it appears.
After your doctor diagnoses that you have eczema, he will use anti-inflammatory medications to give you relief from itching. Steroid creams and antihistamine medications are usually recommended. Alternate treatment options may be tried such as light therapy, coal tar, etc. Immunotherapy generally does not help in eczema.