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The 7 Types of Eczema
There are seven types of eczema and many causes, and understanding this is critical to treating your skin condition.
July 25, 2018
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what causes eczema, and in particular atopic dermatitis, which is actually a subcategory of eczema. There are seven types of eczema and many causes, and understanding this is critical to treating your skin condition.
Eczema – the genetic link
Eczema is not an allergic reaction as generally believed, nor is it due to diet, but in fact, it is caused by a lack of filaggrin, the filament aggregating protein in the skin. This protein determines the shape of the skin cells, which means that when it is lacking they do not fit neatly together like a jigsaw, instead there are gaps in the skin barrier, which makes the skin leaky. For some people, their body will catch up and will produce more filaggrin as they get older, while for others they have a significant lack of filaggrin for life.
The Inflammatory Response
This leaky skin barrier due to misshaped cells results in loss of water causing dry scaly skin, but also allows entry of potential allergens into the epidermis. This is where the allergy side of eczema originates. These allergens in the epidermis then trigger an inflammatory response by the immune system as it “perceives an attack”, which in turn may lead to an allergic response of the skin. This then results in the immune system overreacting to other triggers such as potential food allergens in the gut, and then a vicious cycle has begun. There is also a potential link to asthma as well owing to this over-sensitized immune system.
Flare-ups – Understanding and managing them
Due to this lack of filaggrin protein, the skin is easily sensitized and simple everyday activities such as sport (sweating), swimming, winter dryness can all irritate the skin leading to flare-ups. Add to this the problem that your immune system can easily over-react to bacterial infections, colds, flu, food allergies and even stress, and this can result in a flare-up. So eczema becomes a cycle of damaged skin barrier, immune overreaction, and flare-ups.
To manage eczema it is a case of learning your triggers for your immune system, knowing that these will change over time and by managing your skin barrier to reduce the loss of moisture and entry of allergens to the epidermis.
The Seven Types of Eczema:
All types of eczema cause itching, dryness, and redness, but some may also cause your skin to blister, “weep”, or peel. It is important to understand which type of eczema you or your loved one may have. Learning about and understanding symptoms and possible triggers can also help how to treat and manage your own or your child’s eczema.
1. Atopic dermatitis
The most common form of eczema and usually occurs in childhood. The symptoms include dryness, scaling, itching and redness. Atopic dermatitis is first and foremost a result of lack of filaggrin protein resulting in the ongoing cycle described above.
2. Contact dermatitis
Also caused by a lack of filaggrin where the skin has become sensitized to allergens and has an allergic reaction upon contact. Managing contact dermatitis is about avoiding irritants, protecting the skin barrier and reducing the immune sensitization.
3. Seborrheic dermatitis
Commonly known as dandruff is caused by an overgrowth of yeast and the cells on the scalp results in excessive shedding of the cells appearing as white flakes. However seborrheic dermatitis can also occur on the skin such as the face, arms, legs and body and can be mistaken for nappy rash. This type of eczema appears as red, itchy skin and can be so bad it burns. Infections are also common. Treatment involves the use of specific creams such as antibiotics and salicylic acid to manage the yeast overgrowth and heal the skin.
Where a person develops a skin irritation due to scratching out of habit.
5. Dyshidrotic dermatitis
Generally caused by seasonal allergies and stress, and results in severe itching, cracking and blisters of the hands and feet. The use of oral antihistamines and cream to heal the skin is the best way to manage this form of eczema.
6. Nummular (discoid) dermatitis
This is a type of eczema that is circular and can be red and itchy but this varies. The cause remains unknown but can be triggered by an immune response to an insect bite, wound or general inflammation.
7. Stasis dermatitis
Where there has been a decline in blood flow to the legs resulting in dry itchy scaly skin. This is very common in elderly or those with vascular issues. It is critical to keep the skin moisturized to avoid cracking, blistering and the risk of infection.
Important – Identify your type of eczema
While the information given in this post is important, it is also important to note that the best way to be sure whether you or your loved one has eczema is to make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you on to a dermatologist.
All these different types of eczema can all look similar so you must see a doctor to determine what type of eczema you actually have.
It is critical to understand what type of eczema you have in order to be able to manage it. Treating eczema is about protecting the damaged skin barrier to stop the skin allergic responses and removing as many triggers as possible.
Managing eczema – for yourself or your family
Above all, remember eczema is a genetic condition and it is not due to your diet. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Our immune systems are unique to us and it is a case of finding what works for you, your children, or your babies.
Dr Iona Weir formulated Atopis’s Dry Itchy Skin cream with eczema in mind. This works for all seven types of eczema including dyshidrotic eczema. The therapy cream clears and then fortifies the skin in order to reduce flare ups. The active ingredients in the cream restore the skin’s natural microflora, and works with the immune system to reduce overreaction of the immune system to environmental triggers.
Atopis - gentle on your skin.
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