Eczema – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

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Don't ignore that itch and skin inflammation that occurs over and over again. It could be a skin disease called Eczema.

Eczema is an inflammation of the skin

What is Eczema?

The term eczema has its origins in the Greek language and it means ‘to boil over’. It is a general term for many skin inflammations and is also called dermatitis. The ailment causes skin to become scaly, rough and sometimes thickened. The condition might be worsened by the discharge of colourless fluid upon scratching.

Eczema manifests itself in various forms such as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, varicose eczema, discoid eczema or lichen simplex chronicus (resembling the bark of a tree).

Signs and Symptoms of Eczema

Although there are several types of eczema, the symptoms are quite general. Whatever be the underlying cause, eczema always leads to itching. Some of the important signs and symptoms are listed as under:

  • Redness of skin
  • Itching is an essential symptom in diagnosing eczema but not a specific one.
  • Skin thickening of the affected area as compared to the unaffected region.
  • Blisters that emerge on the affected part
  • Crusts - the secretions oozing from the inflamed region are rich in proteins. On drying they form a crust on the skin.

Causes of Eczema

  • Although the exact cause is not known, it is seen that eczema gets passed on through generations.
  • Apart from being genetically transmitted, irritants like tobacco, chemicals, solvents, or climatic conditions (heat, cold, etc) may worsen the condition.
  • Eczema may also be triggered due to allergens like dust, pollens, pets, moulds and pollutants.
  • An individual’s sensitivity to any particular food may initiate the eczematous condition. The most suspected food items are wheat and dairy products.
  • Stress, scratchy fabrics and sudden change in humidity or temperatures may also elicit eczema.

Treatment of Eczema

Since itching is the main symptom of eczema, it is essential to take measures to control it. Prompt steps should be taken to control itching, redness and further worsening of the situation. Treatment is based upon the age and health status of the individual and requires both lifestyle changes and usage of medication. Maintaining a well-hydrated skin with application of creams rich in oil and prevention of over-bathing are crucial steps in the treatment of eczema.

A dermatologist should be consulted to assess the severity and extent of eczema.

Remember, eczema may be stubborn. Tell your dermatologist if symptoms persist.

It’s a good practice to keep a record of things that triggers the eczema and their avoidance is the best prevention. A suitable treatment plan can be tailored for you with the help of a dermatologist.

 Prevention is Always Better than Cure

  • Keeping the skin moisturised is a good way to prevent itching.
  • Avoid things which may irritate your skin like perfumes, cosmetics, gasoline, turpentine, wool, a pet’s fur, etc.
  • Avoid excessive sweating. This can be done by using antiperspirants and deodorants, avoiding excessively spicy food, wear natural fabrics like cottons and not wearing closed shoes on very hot days.
  • Itching can be curbed by cold compress
  • Maintain proper hand and body hygiene
Photograph by Bryan Chan, via Creative Commons


  1. Colin Caldicott says:

    Biofunctional clothing also keeps the skin at the right humidity and reduces the itching. The latest is DermaSilk which has been proven to be effective by clinical trial and is available on NHS prescription and used by doctors ng contact dermatitis and eczema. The fibres are made from seracin-free silk which is hypoallergenic to reduce irritation, but it also absorbs excess moisture to maintain the right humidity on the skin which reduces itching even more. The fibres are bonded with a proven antimicrobial (used on operating theatre gowns) which is effective against yeasts and bacteria, including MRSA, so it prevents secondary infection. There are excellent case studies on their website.