Experts are not sure what causes eczema, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. But it can be instigated by both genetic and environmental factors. A weakened immune system may be one cause. For example, symptoms can occur when the immune system mistakenly creates inflammation. Stress can also exacerbate eczema, although it doesn't cause it, according to the Institute. In terms of managing eczema, experts say there are two main factors known to make eczema worse: irritants and allergens. Irritants affect the skin and cause redness and itchiness, two hallmarks of eczema. Common examples range from wool, to laundry detergents, to cigarette smoke. Allergens include things like plant or food particles that might cause the immune system to react. Different types of eczema can have varying symptoms and affect different parts of the body, according to WebMD:
- Allergic contact eczema – This is a red and itchy irritation of the skin that usually occurs after coming into contact with something like poison ivy or an irritating lotion.
- Atopic dermatitis – This is the most common form of eczema and is characterized by red, inflamed skin. Scratching these irritations can lead to infections.
- Contact eczema – This is when skin becomes irritated by something it's come into contact with. This can stem from excessive hand washing or coming into contact with an allergen.
- Dyshidrotic eczema – This type of eczema affects the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. Symptoms include itchiness, blistering and irritated patches of skin.
- Nummular Dermatitis – This type of eczema causes coin-shaped, scaly irritations on the arms, back, buttocks and lower parts of the legs. The condition is most common in men in their mid-50s.
- Neurodermatitis – This kind of eczema refers to skin that becomes irritated due to constant habitual scratching. As such, it can affect any part of the body.
- Seborrheic eczema – This refers to what's commonly known as dandruff. Symptoms include flaky, dry skin that sheds.
- Stasis dermatitis – This is a type of irritation of the lower legs caused by circulation problems.
What is eczema herpeticum?
This is a type of herpes infection common in young children, according to the National Eczema Association. The infection is usually localized on the inside of the mouth, but is commonly reactivated on the lips. Children who already have eczema are at higher risk for eczema herpeticum. This type of virus can be easily treated with a medication called acyclovir. For those suffering from recurrent outbreaks (more than two times a year), the National Eczema Association recommends taking the drug daily.
What is baby eczema?
Eczema is quite common among infants, according to the National Eczema Association. Experts report that it often appears within the first six months of life. The disease can last into childhood and teen years, with symptoms worsening and then getting better intermittently throughout this time period. The symptoms of eczema can range from mild to severe, with skin irritations appearing on different parts of the body. With babies, it primarily shows up on the cheeks, forehead and scalp. For babies six to 12 months, it can also appear on the elbows and knees as a result of crawling. Teens might have it on their hands, as well. According to the National Association of Eczema, children who suffer from eczema likely have a family history of the disease.