Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is an itchy, often weeping or crusting inflammation of the skin. In the UK, it is very common and can be quite irritating. The term Eczema is generally used when referring to atopic eczema, which is the most common type. There are other forms though. Atopic eczema typically affects children, with around one in five children in the UK having the condition. In most cases the condition develops before the age of five. Many children develop it as babies, before their first birthday. However the condition can develop for the first time in adults too.
It is known as a chronic condition as it can last for a long time. There are many Paid Clinical Trials involving people with this condition to try to find cures as it can make life difficult for many people. Current clinical trials for dermatology are focused on looking at making the condition more comfortable for sufferers. Some trials conducted have involved studies such as adding certain additives to soap to combat the eczema to even designing clothes that are eczema friendly.
Symptoms of eczema
Symptoms include the following; however, as eczema takes different forms depending on the person, you won't necessarily have all of these. It also depends on the location and severity of the condition:
- Dryness and recurring skin rashes
- Skin redness
- Skin swelling
- Crusting and / or flaking
- Blistering, cracking or oozing
- Bleeding from rash
Where can it be found?
The condition can affect any part of the body; however there are parts of the body where it is more likely to be found. These are:
- The backs or fronts of the knees
- Outside or inside of the elbows
- Around the neck
- The hands
- The scalp
What causes it?
Although many Clinical Trials for Dermatology have and are being conducted, the exact cause of atopic eczema is still currently unknown. Although it is speculated that it can be a result of underlying allergies.
This is thought because the condition often occurs in people who have allergies, such as hay fever, or cat hair allergies. The word "atopic" means sensitivity to allergens.
Research has concluded that the condition can run in families; however it’s not always the case. As mentioned before, it often develops alongside other conditions, particularly asthma and hay fever.
Atopic eczema will have certain triggers which can be different for everyone. What might cause a flare up in one person may not be the trigger in someone else. The most common triggers include certain soaps, washing powder/liquids, stress and in some cases the weather can play a big role in eczema flare ups.
A common cause of flare-ups in young children can be attributed to food allergies.
How can it be treated?
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for atopic eczema, however treating the symptoms with topical creams and Corticosteroids, also commonly referred to as steroids, can help in the long term. Sometimes the condition will become less bad over time.
There is the risk with severe eczema, that it will impact daily life and can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health. If the eczema is this severe, there is also the risk of recurring skin infections.
Current treatments include the following:
- Looking after yourself by trying not to scratch as it will make the condition worse
- Avoiding your known triggers. If you are not sure what they are, you can go to the doctors for an allergy test.
- Moisturising treatments to treat dry skin
- Topical corticosteroids which can be used to reduce swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups
Finding out your triggers
There are several ways to find out what triggers someone’s eczema, once found, it can be quite easy to avoid these triggers in order to minimize flare ups.
One of the first things a doctor may suggest is a skin prick test. It is painless, safe and only takes 20 minutes to get results. The doctor will prick a finger with a suspected allergen to see if there is a reaction.
Another option is the blood test. It measures the number of antibodies in the blood that has been produced by your immune system, when the body comes in contact with a suspected allergen. There are other tests that can be done, but these are usually the quickest. Others include food testing and skin patches.
Other types of eczema
Aside from the Atopic eczema, there are other forms of eczema. These are:
- Varicose eczema – this type of eczema tends to affect the lower legs and is caused by circulation issues and blood flow though the leg veins.
- Discoid eczema – this type of eczema creates circular patches on the skin.
- Seborrhoeic eczema – this type of eczema causes red, scaly patches to develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp
- Contact dermatitis – this type of eczema occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance.
- Dyshidrotic eczema (pompholyx) causes tiny blisters to erupt across the palms of the hands.
If you have eczema and want to see if there are ways to combat it that will stop flare-ups completely, it might well be worth checking to see if there are any paid clinical trials you can take part in.