Eczema

Eczema is a skin inflammation characterised by red, scaly, dry or oozing skin patches. The inflammation is non-contagious, usually flares up intermittently, and is often accompanied by severe itching.

Overview

Eczema is a skin inflammation characterised by red, scaly, dry or oozing skin patches. The inflammation is non-contagious, usually flares up intermittently, and is often accompanied by severe itching. Eczema can be triggered by specific substances - if these are known, they should be avoided. Genetic factors can also play a role. Eczema should not be scratched.

Symptoms

  • Red, scaly skin patches: sometimes dry, sometimes oozing and then crusting
  • Rash can consist of small nodules (papules) or blisters
  • Cracks (rhagades) often occur
  • In acute severe eczema, the skin is often swollen
  • Sometimes fever
  • Dominant symptom for allergic eczema is itching
  • Non-allergic eczema usually doesn't itch
  • Seborrhoeic eczema: oily flakes of skin and inflamed, sharply demarcated, yellowish red patches

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Often, genetic predisposition
  • Often in combination with allergic disorders, e.g. hay fever or asthma
  • Allergic eczema
    • Epoxy resins (adhesives), mineral oils, cement, rubber and latex, hair treatments and dyes, cleaning agents, flour and cereals
    • Typical non-occupational allergens: leather and nickel in buckles and watch straps, cosmetics, preservatives and fragrances, textile dyes, plants
  • Toxic/irritant eczema
    • Chemical irritants, in particular cleaning agents, washing powder, disinfectants and thinners
  • Atopic eczema (neurodermatitis)
    • Genetic causes, causes related to the immune system
    • Stress and tension make it worse
  • Other eczema, e.g. skin glands don't produce enough oil, impaired circulation, or ageing skin

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Skin examination
  • Allergy test (search for trigger), if necessary
Possible therapies
  • Topical treatment with ointments and mixtures that contain cortisone, tar, zinc or salicylic acid
  • More rarely, oral medication
  • Avoidance of triggers (see below)

What can I do myself?

  • Avoid contact with triggers, for example:
    • Wear gloves when working with chemicals
    • Sun allergy: avoid sun exposure
    • Food allergy: targeted dietary measures
    • Instead of wool and synthetic materials, wear cotton or linen
  • Skin care (e.g. hand lotion, mild soap)
  • Avoid violent scratching (to prevent scars and infections)
  • Low-stress and balanced lifestyle
  • Changes in climate (e.g. beach or mountains) can have favourable as well as unfavourable effects
  • Suspected to reduce the probability of allergies and neurodermatitis
    • Let children play outside/in the sandpit
    • Continue breastfeeding for a lengthy period

When to see a doctor?

  • Chronic skin infection (to evaluate the skin disorder)
  • If the eczematous skin areas are infected (overheated, purulent discharge or pus-filled blisters)

Further information

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbsthilfeschweiz.ch

aha! Swiss Allergy Centre (aha! Allergiezentrum Schweiz)
www.ahaswiss.ch

Synonyms

eczema, dermatitis

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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