Patch testing: Is It A Skin Allergy Or Eczema?
The cause of eczema can be tough to figure out - even for dermatologists.
Eczema, or dermatitis as it is sometimes called, is a group of skin
conditions which can affect all age groups. In the United Kingdom, up
to one fifth of all children of school age have eczema, along with
about one in twelve of the adult population.
"Patch testing of the skin can tell us if a rash is being caused or
exacerbated by an allergy, and can help us to distinguish a skin
allergy from other skin conditions, such as eczema, irritant dermatitis
or psoriasis," says Joshua L. Fox, dermatologist and founder of the
Center For Laser And Cosmetic Surgery.
The severity of eczema can
vary. In mild forms the skin is dry, hot and itchy, whilst in more
severe forms the skin can become broken, raw and bleeding.
Although it can sometimes look unpleasant, eczema is not contagious.
With treatment the inflammation of eczema can be reduced, though the
skin will always be sensitive to flare-ups and need extra care.
Atopic eczema is thought to be a hereditary condition, being
genetically linked. It is proposed that people with atopic eczema are
sensitive to allergens in the environment which are harmless to others.
In atopy there is an excessive reaction by the immune system producing inflamed, irritated and sore skin.
Other types of eczema are caused by irritants such as chemicals and
detergents, allergens such as nickel, and yeast growths. In later years
eczema can be caused by a blood circulatory problems in the legs.
There are a number of ways to manage eczema, all of which begin with
an effective skin care routine. Emollients are necessary to reduce
water loss from the skin, preventing the dryness normally associated
with eczema. When eczema is under control only emollients need to be
used. However in flare-ups, when the skin becomes inflamed, a steroid
cream may be needed. Steroids act by reducing inflammation and are used
in most types of eczema. As long as steroids are used appropriately and
as directed by your doctor, the likelihood of side effects is very