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

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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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