What is Eczema and What Causes It?
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a rash that shows up as an itchy inflammation of the skin. It is similar to an allergic reaction in that there are typically specific triggers for the rash, but those triggers differ for each person. These triggers can be almost anything, ranging from soaps and creams to weather and emotional or mental stress and can cause various types of eczema as well.
Types of Triggers
When it comes to triggers such as soaps, creams, and detergents, the duration of contact to the skin does not make a difference. The body may break out immediately upon the first touch or it may take coming into contact with the trigger several times before a break out occurs. Often times, once the eczema rash is treated and eliminated, future eczema outbreaks with these types of triggers can be avoided by monitoring what type of creams and soaps are used and how much of these are used.
Environmental triggers can include weather (humidity, extreme heat, extreme cold, dry air) or even water. The most common weather trigger is dry air and extreme cold. Most people are affected to some extent by winter weather, requiring lotion to keep their skin extra moisturized during the winter. However, those suffering from eczema usually have a bit more of a challenge during the winter weather. Once exposed to cold weather, some eczema sufferers have dry, leathery, cracked skin for the entirety of winter. Water can cause an eczema outbreak when the skin gets wet and clothes rub against it. As with soaps, sometimes this will cause an immediate outbreak and sometimes it will take a few hours for this to cause an outbreak.
Types of Eczema
There are several different types of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, affecting everyone from infants to adults. This is a chronic disease, and while some people may not always show symptoms the eczema never really goes away. Certain triggers will cause the symptoms to reappear, even if the disease has been dormant for years. Atopic dermatitis tends to be genetic and doctors have found that those who develop this type of eczema often times have family members with a history of allergic conditions like asthma.
Contact eczema is another common form of eczema. This is the type of eczema that can be set off by laundry detergent, fabrics, metal jewelry (nickel specifically), and even cosmetics. Some people with contact eczema may develop a rash as soon as they come into contact with the trigger, and some people may not develop the rash until hours or days later. People who develop this type of eczema typically have a history of other allergies as well.