What is eczema?
Is your skin dry and rough? Is your skin Itchy? Do you have white blotches on your cheeks and arms? You may have eczema.
The name, eczema, is a general term meaning inflammation of the skin. People who suffer from eczema almost always complain of itchy skin. In fact, some call eczema ‘the itch that rashes.’ Eczema is a chronic skin condition in which the skin barrier has difficulty repairing itself. Rubbing and scratching, in response to itch, will further disrupt the skin barrier, and make the rash worse.
What are the different types or categories of eczema?
Atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is the most common type of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is an inherited and a common form of eczema that often starts in early infancy but can appear at any time of life. Atopic dermatitis might be associated with other medical conditions, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies, the so-called ‘atopic triad.’ This classic skin rash demonstrates as pink, scaly patches usually concentrated in the skin folds behind the knees and elbows.
Allergic contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that occurs after skin contact with a specific substance you may be allergic to. Often this can include preservatives or other chemicals in products we use everyday. The development of allergy occurs over time and with repeated exposure. The classic case of contact allergy is poison ivy dermatitis. When the cause of an allergic reaction is unclear, patch testing is a medical test done in our office which can potentially identify the causative allergen for a recurrent eczema rash.
Irritant contact dermatitis is a form of eczema resulting from chemical damage or from activities that impair the skin’s barrier. Corrosive agents found in soaps, cleansers and solvents can destroy skin cells leading to inflammation, redness and scaling. Other potential irritants include dry air, changes in temperature, water and frequent hand washing. No diagnostic test exists for this type of eczema. A dermatologist will assess your skin, and your history of exposures to help you identify and best manage this type of eczematous dermatitis.