Eczema: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options

Medical review: Drª. Aleksana Viana
Dermatologist
April 2022

Eczema is an inflammation of the skin that can symptom like skin redness, swelling itching, and peeling.

In most cases, eczema is caused when a person comes into contact with a skin irritant, like cleaners or latex, but it can also happen due to certain types of medication, allergies or when there is a change in blood circulation.

Eczema can be managed with the correct treatment indicated by a dermatologist. Treatment usually includes identifying the cause or trigger and avoiding it. If necessary, the doctor may also prescribe medication.

Main symptoms

Eczema symptoms can vary according to the cause and type of eczema, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Redness in the area;
  • Itchiness;
  • Skin blisters that may burst and leak fluid;
  • Swelling;
  • Peeling.

In flare-ups that last for longer, blisters can dry up and crust over, causing a thickening of the skin in that area.  

Babies and children with eczema will commonly experience skin changes on the face, arms, and legs. In adults symptoms can appear in any part of the body. If you notice any symptom of eczema, you should see your doctor for assessment and treatment as needed. 

Types of eczema and causes

Eczema can affect the skin for several reasons, however, it is most frequently caused by a reaction to certain types of fabric, fragrances or medications. It can also be triggered by hot environments, which tend to make the skin drier and more reactive.

Depending on the cause, eczema can be classified into different types. The main ones include:

  1. Contact eczema/dermatitis: which happens when the skin come in contact with an irritant like a synthetic fabric, fragrances, latex, soap or even nail polish; 
  2. Stasis eczema: which occurs when there is a change to blood circulation in a certain area. It most frequently affects the legs;
  3. Eczema due to medication: which happens when, after taking medication, there is an allergic reaction which results in the appearance of redness in the skin;
  4. Atopic dermatitis: which is normally linked to asthma and hay fever. Symptoms like intense itchiness usually appear on the face, the folds of the arms and legs.
  5. Nummular eczema: This type doesn't have an established cause, but, in some situations, it can be related to very dry skin from cold and dry weather. This type of eczema is characterized by the presence of red, round, and itchy skin patches.

In children, eczema usually appears after 3 months of age and can last until adolescence. Treatment must be done under the pediatrician's supervision, and may involve prescription corticosteroids, antihistamines and moisturizers. 

Treatment options

Treatment for eczema is monitored by a doctor and will depend on the type of eczema, the presenting symptoms and the severity. Oftentimes, doctors will prescribe corticosteroids or antihistamines in oral or topical forms to help relieve symptoms and promote wound healing.

In some cases, the doctor may also indicate antibiotics, if there is any type of infection on the skin or if there is a hight risk of infection.

During treatment, it's very important to keep the skin well-hydrated with moisturizing creams, as dry skin can make symptoms worse and delay treatment results.

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em April de 2022. Medical review por Drª. Aleksana Viana - Dermatologist, em September de 2021.

References

  • SOCIEDADE BRASILEIRA DE DERMATOLOGIA. Eczema. Available on: <https://www.sbd.org.br/dermatologia/pele/doencas-e-problemas/eczema/70/#:~:text=O%20que%20%C3%A9%3F-,Eczema%20%C3%A9%20um%20tipo%20de%20dermatose%20que%20se%20caracteriza%20por,ser%20agudo%2C%20subagudo%20ou%20cr%C3%B4nico.>. Access in 15 Oct 2020
  • SOCIEDADE BRASILEIRA DE MEDICINA E SAÚDE DA FAMÍLIA E COMUNIDADE. Eczema: resumo de diretriz NHG M37. 2014. Available on: <http://www.sbmfc.org.br/wp-content/uploads/media/NHG%2038%20Eczema(1).pdf>. Access in 15 Oct 2020
Show more references
  • ANTUNES, Adriana A.; SOLÉ, Dirceu; CARVALHO, Vânia O.; BAU, Ana E. K et al. Guia prático de atualização em dermatite atópica - Parte I: etiopatogenia, clínica e diagnóstico. Posicionamento conjunto da Associação Brasileira de Alergia e Imunologia e da Sociedade Brasileira de Pediatria. Arq Asma Alerg Imunol. Vol 1. 2 ed; 131-156, 2017
Medical review:
Drª. Aleksana Viana
Dermatologist
Post graduate in Clinical Dermatology, Cosmiatric and Surgery by CMMG in 2012 and member no. 16907 of CRM-PE, Brazil.