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Also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterised by inflammation, itching, and a variety of skin symptoms. Here’s a brief explanation of what eczema is and why it occurs:
What is Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)? Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that typically begins in infancy or childhood but can affect people of all ages. It is characterised by several key features:
- Inflammation: Eczema results from an overactive immune response in the skin, leading to inflammation.
- Itching: It is often intensely itchy, and scratching can exacerbate the condition, leading to a cycle of itching and scratching.
- Rash: Eczema typically presents as a red, dry, scaly rash, and it may involve the development of small, fluid-filled blisters.
- Affected Areas: The rash can appear on various parts of the body but is most found on the face, hands, feet, and the creases of the elbows and knees.
Why Eczema Occurs: The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. Here are some key factors contributing to the development of eczema:
- Genetics: Eczema tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Individuals with a family history of eczema, asthma, or allergic rhinitis may be at a higher risk.
- Immune System Dysfunction: Eczema is associated with immune system dysregulation, specifically an abnormal response in the skin’s immune system. This leads to inflammation and skin barrier dysfunction.
- Skin Barrier Impairment: People with eczema often have a compromised skin barrier. This makes the skin more susceptible to irritants and allergens, allowing them to penetrate more easily and trigger an immune response.
- Environmental Triggers: Various environmental factors can exacerbate eczema symptoms, including exposure to allergens (such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander), irritants (like harsh soaps or detergents), changes in temperature and humidity, and stress.
- Food Allergies: In some cases, certain food allergies may contribute to eczema symptoms, particularly in young children. However, food allergies are not a primary cause of eczema in most cases.
- Microbial Factors: Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can worsen eczema symptoms or trigger flare-ups.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy or puberty, can affect the severity of eczema symptoms in some individuals.
Treatment And Prevention.
Eczema is a chronic condition, and while there is no cure, it can often be managed effectively with proper skincare, avoidance of triggers, and, in some cases, medical treatments such as topical corticosteroids, moisturisers, and in severe cases, systemic medications or biologics. It’s important for individuals with eczema to work closely with healthcare providers, typically dermatologists, to develop a personalised treatment plan and learn how to manage their condition effectively.
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