About Eczema: The Facts

Specialists themselves disagree on which diseases should be included under the heading eczema, but essentially it's an inflammation of the skin that's not caused by a bacterial infection. It's also known as dermatitis. The condition may be temporary or chronic, mild or life-threatening (if it is severe enough to cause complications, such as cellulitis, or if an affected person also contracts the herpes simplex virus, or has a violent allergic reaction caused by contact dermatitis). These instances are extremely rare, however.

Contact dermatitis is the commonest type of skin inflammation. It's a temporary reaction to an irritant or allergen. Poison ivy is the classic example.

Atopic dermatitis is the prevalent form of chronic eczema. A genetically inherited condition, it tends to run in families who also suffer from hay fever and asthma. Atopic dermatitis will affect about 10% of Caucasians and Asians at some point in their lives.

Seborrhea is eczema of the scalp. In adults, mild seborrhea is known as dandruff. In babies, it tends to look more severe, and is called cradle cap.

Nummular eczema normally affects older adults, and its cause is unknown. Round patches of scaly inflamed skin may appear anywhere on the body. Winter is the peak period for this condition, which tends to strike dry skin.

Varicose eczema (or gravitational eczema) affects the lower legs of older adults. It is basically a poor circulation problem.

Lichen simplex chronicus is a non-allergic itch, which often appears in times of stress. The disease is prolonged and sometimes spread by the patient's scratching.

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