Eczema Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of eczema may only be felt upon contact with a specific irritant or allergen and last a short time but some sufferers experience chronic itchiness of the skin with alterations in skin colour, blistering, weeping of the skin and crusting. Where the skin cracks it can be extremely painful, bleeding may occur, and skin infections can develop.
Chronic Pruritis and Lichenification in Eczema
The itchiness of eczema can cause sufferers to scratch their skin until it weeps and is raw, red, and inflamed. Areas of atopic eczema can include the ears, eyelids, elbows, and the backs of the knees amongst others, and patients may unconsciously scratch such areas until they bleed, only stopping at that point. Chronic scratching of an area may lead to the development of thickened skin through a process called lichenification. This leatheriness of the skin may be accompanied by changes in skin tone and sensation.
Eczema in Children and Babies
Younger patients (particularly children under the age of two) tend to have skin lesions and blisters on their scalp, face, hands, and feet. This type of atopic eczema is often described as a bubbling, or oozing rash, with crusting of the skin and can cause considerable discomfort in a child. Many parents attempt to address the condition through dietary change and allergen control which can be helpful but should always be done with proper medical guidance to ensure that a growing infant has the correct nutrition for growth and development.
Eczema in Adults and Teens
Older children and adults are less likely to have atopic eczema on the face but may develop lesions on their neck, hands, feet, and inside creases such as the knees and elbows. Where a severe exacerbation of eczema occurs they may develop lesions at any point on the body with significant inflammation, itchiness, and pain from scratching and cracking of the skin. The development of itching may alert a sufferer to an impending bout of eczema as this can sometimes precede the overt signs of inflammation and the red, scaly skin rash.
Eczema diagnosis is based on a detailed family and personal history along with the appearance of the skin itself. Where family members have asthma, hayfever, other hypersensiitivies, such as food allergies, or eczema there is likely to be considerable cause for suspicion of the diagnosis in the patient under examination. In some cases a patient may undergo a skin biopsy if the physician suspects a skin condition or disease other than eczema.
Atopic Eczema and Asthma
Where atopic eczema is diagnosed it is often helpful for patients to keep a symptom diary in order to help identify any patterns to flare-ups that may highlight possible eczema triggers. This can then help in removing the triggers where possible, or managing the symptoms of eczema more carefully. Specific allergy testing with a qualified dermatologist is also beneficial for patients whose eczema is proving difficult to control and where other symptoms of allergic reaction or hypersensitivity are observed.
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