Learn about the causes of Eczema & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Eczema within New Zealand.
Eczema, or dermatitis, is a term for skin inflammation and is typically characterised by dry, red and flaky skin that feels itchy and hot. Eczema is not contagious and can affect people of any age. Eczema is most common in infants but usually clears up by the time children reach their teens. Atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema and is linked to asthma and hay fever.
Causes of eczema
The exact causes of eczema are unknown but an abnormal function of the immune system is believed to be the major factor. Atopic eczema has been identified in people with a family history of the condition and therefore inherited genes may be the cause. People with atopic eczema are overly sensitive to allergens such as dust mites, pollen, animal fur and certain foods. The inherited gene also means they are at an increased risk of developing other allergy related conditions such as asthma and hay fever.
Other factors that can trigger eczema include substances such as chemicals, soaps, detergents and powders. When these substances come into contact with the skin of someone who is sensitive to them they cause irritation. Secondary infections can cause eczema as can extreme temperatures or high humidity. A woman's menstrual cycle or women who are pregnant can suffer with eczema due to hormonal changes in the body. Emotional problems and stress can also make symptoms of eczema worse.
The common symptoms for eczema are itchy, dry, hot, red and flaky skin.
Any area of the skin can be affected by eczema but it typically affects
skin areas that crease i.e. front of the elbow, back of the knee,
around the neck and the hands. In babies, eczema usually affects the
face and scalp. In some cases, eczema can cause the skin to weep and
swell and there may be a bacterial infection present such as
People with persistent eczema (eczema in its chronic form that has lasted a long period of time) will usually have skin that has become dry, thick and scaly or cracked due to constant scratching. Atopic eczema increases the possibility that skin will develop other infections and will be highly sensitive to substances that will trigger further 'flare ups'.
Itchy and hot skin causes an uncontrollable urge to scratch and this will damage the skin even further. Scratching makes itchiness worse and an itch-scratch cycle develops that is difficult to break. Severe scratching can make the skin bleed and disrupt sleep. Sleepless nights can cause poor concentration and lack of energy, this can potentially lead to psychological problems such as depression.
Eczema is diagnosed by a GP examining the skin and asking questions about family medical history for eczema, hay fever and asthma. The GP will also ask about environmental factors such as exposure to certain substances or situations. Occasionally, a blood allergy test or allergy patch test can be used to identify what triggers the eczema. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be taken to rule out other skin diseases that display similar symptoms to eczema.
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