What is Eczema?
According to the Mayo Clinic, different types of dermatitis exist and eczema is one type.1 Doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema, but it may be related to the immune system or sensitive skin. Hay fever or asthma can accompany flare-ups.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, usually appears on a person’s arms and behind a person’s knees.2 The skin swells and becomes itchy. Eczema may appear to go away, but will flare up again for a short time before it subsides again. Soaps and detergents, particularly with perfumes, may cause more itching.
Different types of dermatitis have different characteristics. Eczema shows up as small red bumps and is very itchy. When a person scratches the bumps, they break and leak fluid, then usually crust over.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it’s believed that several underlying factors may trigger it.3 Eczema is thought to run in families where other family members have hay fever, asthma or eczema. Eczema is usually seen in childhood and varies in severity. As children reach adulthood, eczema may tend to cease on its own, unless the person is exposed to environmental irritants or allergens. If a person becomes stressed, the stress may make the eczema worse, but it does not cause the condition.
Infection can complete eczema. If a person scratches the rash, especially with dirty hands, the open sores could become infected. Common bacteria that breed in open sores include staphylococci, viruses and fungi.4 Cellulitis could also complicate matters. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the tissue under the skin. People with cellulitis have skin that appears inflamed, red and warm and tender to the touch. Cellulitis can spread and does not have distinctive margins. The infection can be life-threatening if a person’s immune system is compromised. Other complications include scarring and possible skin color changes.
If itching persists or an infection develops, eczema sufferers should visit the doctor as quickly as possible. If the rash doesn’t seem to go away or becomes red and tender to the touch, a person should see the doctor as soon as possible to ensure that bacteria are not growing on the skin or in the rash.