Eczema is part of a group of conditions where the skin becomes inflamed with itching, redness, dryness, or even small blisters in the skin. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, and it affects children more commonly than adults. This condition begins with itchy patches of skin that become swollen, dry, red, and can sometimes display small weeping blisters, which are made worse from itching and irritation. While eczema can appear anywhere on the body, common sites for dry patches to appear are the face and neck areas, hands, feet, knees and elbows. Most children who develop the condition will outgrow the symptoms by adulthood, but some people will have symptoms all through their life.
Another common type of eczema is hand eczema, usually occurring as a result of over-washing or over-sanitizing hands. Frequent hand washing and sanitizing can result in dry, itchy skin on the hands and fingers, which can become scaly and may even crack. Hand eczema appears most commonly in the wintertime, and especially in people working in professions where frequent hand washing is necessary, such as working near food, with children, or in healthcare.
Eczema can be treated with topical medications, such as steroid creams, to reduce painful inflammation and irritating itching. Topical steroids have been used for many years in medical dermatology to help calm skin inflammation, and are safe even for children. In some cases, oral medications such as prednisone or antihistamines may be needed if the outbreak is severe.
While eczema has no known cure, its symptoms can be managed with proper diagnosis and treatment. Aside from treating the immediate irritation and inflammation with steroids, severe outbreaks for those with eczema can be prevented. With atopic dermatitis, routine moisturizing is recommended, especially after bathing. In cases of hand eczema, try to limit frequent hand washing, and use gentle cleansers followed by moisturizer. If hands must be submerged in water, gloves can help keep the skin dry.