Eczema is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system response to internal and external factors and irritants, such as soaps, clothing, extreme temperatures and cold or hot weather. Eczema is usually marked by dry and red patches of skin that itch and tend to worsen when scratched. Patches of eczema occur most often on the body, arms, and legs, especially in creases in the skin like elbows and behind the knees, but it can appear anywhere on the body. In adults, the hands are most commonly involved. If the skin is repeatedly scratched, the skin may become thick and coarse or become infected.
Eczema is a genetic condition and is most common in patients who also suffer from seasonal allergies and asthma. Kids’ with parents who suffer from season allergies are most likely to inherit eczema. It also has an association with other autoimmune diseases.
Central to pathogenesis of eczema is barrier dysfunction. Skin of eczema patients isn’t normal and it allows allergens to enter and water to leave (trans-epidermal water loss).
There are many treatment options for treating eczema. To reduce the itching, Dr. Goldenberg may prescribe steroidal creams or antibiotics if an infection is present. Barrier repair creams may help maintain the skin between flares. Phototherapy or other treatments may also be recommended.
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Reviewed by Dr. Goldenberg