By Sanjana Vadapalli
Itching. Scaling. Red, cracked skin. Eczema, a certain type of atopic rash, is a red, flaky rash that affects 10-20% of the U.S. population. Most common in younger children, but affecting all ages, eczema can be treated using oral medicine, light therapy, and topical steroids. This itchy rash afflicts 15 million Americans annually, having no ultimate ‘cure’; only time can fully cure this agonizing rash. With seven various main types of the rash, it takes a lot of time and effort to treat this condition.
Eczema is caused by internal inflammation often related to gut-health. Recurrences of the rash can occur at any time, even when the skin is seemingly clear. This is because even if the rash seems minute initially, there is still a lot going on in the immune system. Eczema normally occurs due to a trigger caused by something that one is allergic to. This allergy can be anything from dust to strong fragrances that disrupt the immune system in one’s body, thus causing flare-ups. Some common eczema triggers include cold or dry air, stress, bacterial skin infections, exposure to irritants and allergens, and heat and humidity. Genes and exposure to allergens may also contribute to the linkage between eczema and asthma, as it is quite common to attain both conditions. According to studies conducted by Healthline, 50% of people with moderate to severe eczema also have asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and food allergies.
Eczema is classified into 7 different main types. The first and most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis often forms in creases of the skin, such as the elbows and knees. Primary causes of atopic dermatitis include genes, dry skin, a compromised immune system, or an environmental issue. A second type of eczema is contact dermatitis, where the possibility of hives and itchy, burning skin is very high. This may be caused by various things such as detergent, bleach, jewelry, and latex. The third type that can be found is dyshidrotic eczema, blisters filled with fluid formed on toes, palms, fingers, and soles of the feet. It can be caused by allergies, stress, and damp hands and feet. The fourth type of eczema is hand eczema, where hands get red, itchy, and dry, often caused by cleaning supplies. A fifth type of eczema is neurodermatitis, which can be triggered by stress that causes scaly, thick patches on the skin. A sixth type is nummular eczema, caused by a reaction to an insect bite, appearing as coin-shaped spots on one’s skin. The last main type of eczema is stasis dermatitis in which legs may swell up, caused by blood flow problems.
Eczema affects as many as 15 million in just the United States. Though it is not deadly, it still puts a heavy burden on those with the condition, affecting ⅕ of the US population. Those affected often deal with the condition for a long time, though it may recede as one reaches adulthood. With seven different main types, it has a diverse range of causes and symptoms, often associated with hay fever and asthma. This itchy red rash with many causes has many effects and overall can change lives. Despite this, as once said by Albert Camus, “Eczema is a burden but that burden will strengthen you.”