What causes eczema?

The causes of eczema are many and varied, and depend on the particular type of eczema that a person has. Atopic eczema is thought to be a hereditary condition, being genetically linked. . In atopy there is an excessive reaction by the immune system producing inflamed, irritated and sore skin. Associated atopic conditions include asthma and hayfever. Other types of eczema are caused by irritants such as chemicals and detergents, allergens such as nickel, and yeast growths.

What are the different types of eczema?

Atopic eczema

Atopic eczema is the commonest form of eczema and is closely linked with asthma and hayfever. It can affect both children and adults, usually running in families. One of the most common symptoms of atopic eczema is its itchiness (or pruritis), which can be almost unbearable. Other symptoms include overall dryness of the skin, redness and inflammation. Constant scratching can also cause the skin to split, leaving it prone to infection. In infected eczema the skin may crack and weep (‘wet’ eczema).


Allergic contact dermatitis

Develops when the body’s immune system reacts against a substance in contact with the skin. The allergic reaction often develops over a period of time through repeated contact with the substance. In order to prevent repeated reactions it is best to prevent contact with anything that you know causes a rash.


Irritant contact dermatitis

This is a type of eczema caused by frequent contact with everyday substances, such as detergents and chemicals, which are irritating to the skin. It most commonly occurs on the hands of adults and can be prevented by avoiding the irritants and keeping the skin moisturised.


Infantile seborrhoeic eczema

A common condition affecting babies under one year old, the exact cause of which is unknown. Also referred to as cradle cap, it usually starts on the scalp or the nappy area and quickly spreads. Although this type of eczema looks unpleasant, it is not sore or itchy and does not cause the baby to feel uncomfortable or unwell. Normally this type of eczema will clear in just a few months, though the use of moisturising creams and bath oils can help to speed this along.


Adult seborrhoeic eczema

Characteristically affects adults between the ages of 20 and 40. It is usually seen on the scalp as mild dandruff, but can spread to the face, ears and chest. The skin becomes red, inflamed and starts to flake. The condition is believed to be caused by a yeast growth


Information Courtesy of:
The National Eczema Society

For Further information visit the website
www.eczema.org

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