What is an eczema ?

The term eczema refers to an inflammatory process affecting the skin which, in its acute form, presents with erythema (reddening of the skin), edema (local swelling), peeling and the presence of blisters which, when broken, cause the leakage of a characteristic liquid, the so-called gemitium.

The course of the disease ends with the formation of scabs. Chronic eczema, on the other hand, causes dry and thickened lesions or, sometimes, an alteration in the colouring of the skin which, in some places, appears darker. This pigmentation is determined above all by the itching, which appears from the beginning of the disease and represents its most annoying disorder.

Eczema, which has an eruptive type of appearance and is characterized by irregular patches that can affect more or less extensive areas, is a particularly widespread dermatological disease, mainly because of the increase in industrialization, which has increased the likelihood of coming into contact with substances harmful and irritating to the skin.

It is important not to confuse eczema with other pathologies that have similar manifestations but have different origins: eczemas include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, infantile and adult seborrheic dermatitis, stasis eczema, dyshydrosic eczema, nummulary eczema and neurodermatitis.

Contagion of eczema ?

Contact eczema is one of the most common eczema and is usually caused by an irritative substance that comes into contact with the skin or by an allergy (which occurs when the link between a simple chemical and a skin protein starts a specific immunological reaction).

Eczema can be caused by many substances that, causing a continuous and repeated irritation on the skin, alter the hydrolipidic film (ie the layer consisting of water and fat that has the function of protecting the skin), causing redness, edema, blistering, itching. If this happens through contact with substances present in the working environment we speak of professional eczema.

The body areas affected by eczema can be different, but in newborns this disease is more frequently located on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, head and neck. In older children and adults, however, the areas most affected are the face, neck, the flying surface of the arms and, finally, the knees and ankles.

The characteristics of eczema, which depend on several factors (including the cause behind it and the location where it occurs), can be very varied. In the dyshidrosis eczemaragadizzato, for example, there are continuous solutions that make tissue repair difficult; in the dyshidrosisforme eczema there are vesicles on inflamed skin, while the nummula eczema manifests itself with round spots similar to coins (hence the term nummulare, which means precisely “similar to a coin”) and mainly affects the elderly. If eczema is complicated by microbial suprainfections, this is called impetiginization. The table on the previous page gives a summary of the different types of eczema in their most serious form, i.e. the one characterized by complications and chronicizations due to lack of treatment or inadequate treatment. In these cases, forms of eczema with specific characteristics are determined, depending on the site in which they occur.

Treating eczema

In order to treat eczema properly, it is important to understand exactly what causes it. Before solving the problem yourself, it is therefore advisable to consult a dermatologist, who will be able to identify all the factors that could be at the origin of the disorder.

The purpose of the treatment is to reduce itching and skin inflammation, treat infections, soften and eliminate scaly lesions and prevent further formation.

Sometimes several therapies have to be administered at the same time, while it is always necessary to adopt a specific behaviour to avoid all the predisposing factors (the so-called triggers).

The therapy of allergic eczema, in particular, has as its fundamental point the avoidance of all allergens (ie the substances that trigger the allergic reaction), of which the doctor must make a list taking into account the possibility of cross-reactions. The doctor may also decide to treat the lesions with cortisone, to be applied locally or to be taken orally.

With regard to irritant eczema, after eliminating the triggering factor, it is necessary to prevent contact and inhalation with irritant substances using aprons, gloves, masks. It is therefore important to reconstitute the hydrolipidic film with the help of emollient and moisturizing creams.

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