DEFINITION--A chronic allergic skin disorder.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Skin, especially of the hands, scalp, face, back of the
neck or skin creases of elbows and knees. Types: atopic eczema, occurs in people who have
a tendency toward allergy and is common in babies; nummular eczema occurs in adults and
the cause is unknown; hand eczema usually results from irritation by a substance.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--May begin between 1 month and 1 year. It usually
subsides somewhat by age 3, but it may flare again at any age.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS--
Often occurs for no known reason. An allergic reaction to a wide variety of things,
- Foods, such as eggs, wheat, milk or seafood.
- Wool clothing.
- Skin lotions and ointments.
- Soaps, detergents, cleansers.
- Plants, tanning agents used for shoe leather, dyes, topical medications.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Medical history of other allergic conditions, such as hay fever, asthma or sensitivity
to certain drugs.
- Clothing made of synthetic fabric, which traps perspiration.
- Weather extremes, including humidity, severe cold and severe heat (especially with
HOW TO PREVENT
- Avoiding risk factors.
- Wearing rubber gloves for household tasks.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory studies, such as blood and skin tests to identify allergies.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Home care.
- Doctor's treatment.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS--Bacterial infections caused by injury to the skin.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Variable. Some children outgrow eczema. Others are resistant
to treatment, and eczema may persist through puberty. However, symptoms can usually be
controlled with treatment. Skin irritation from any other cause can trigger a flare-up or
aggravate existing eczema.
How To Treat
- Wear loose, cotton clothing to help absorb perspiration.
- Minimize stress whenever possible.
- Keep fingernails short and put soft gloves on at night to minimize scratching.
Scratching worsens eczema.
- Bathe less frequently to avoid excessive skin dryness. Soap and water may trigger
flare-ups. When bathing, use special non-fat soaps and tepid water. Use no soap on
- Lubricate the skin after bathing.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes.
- Avoid anything that has previously worsened the condition.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:
- Ointments containing coal tar or cortisone drugs to decrease inflammation. These may
help more if used at night under occlusive plastic wrap. Ask your doctor.
- Antihistamines to decrease itching.
- Antibiotics for complicating infections, if they occur.
- Sedatives or tranquilizers (rarely).
ACTIVITY--No restrictions. Sometimes being exposed to sunlight helps heal the
rash. Take care not to get burned.
DIET--No special diet. Eliminate any foods known to cause flare-ups of eczema.
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of eczema that don't clear up with self-care.
- New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.