The term eczema is used to cover several skin conditions. The most common eczema symptoms include an inflamed skin rash accompanied by itchiness. Many patients also develop flaky skin. The disease makes the skin more vulnerable to bacterial infections.
Eczema symptoms are the result of an overreaction to environmental allergens such as chemicals in household products, dust, etc. Even food items can trigger adverse responses.
Eczema symptoms are often accompanied by other atopic diseases including asthma, hay fever and conjunctivitis. Eczema has genetic origins and often runs in families. It is chronic and there is no cure for it at present; treatment generally revolves around managing symptoms.
Skin lesions are a characteristic of eczema. There are three fundamental types of lesions associated with eczema / atopic dermatitis.
Acute lesions are the first type. They are highly itchy, pimple-like solid eruptions (called papules) and blisters on the skin surface that are filled with fluid (called vesicules.) The skin beneath these formations is usually reddened. A watery fluid often oozes out of acute lesions. The skin layers may peel off (a process called exfoliation) or may get destroyed /eroded.
Sub-acute lesions are the second type of lesions. These are considerably less severe than acute lesions. They generally do not ooze fluid. The skin is reddened and peeling and scaling are present.
Chronic lesions are the third type of lesions. Here the skin has thickened plaques, fibrous papules as well as lichenification. Adolescents and children who have chronic atopic dermatitis may have all three types of eczema symptoms simultaneously.
Apart from the main eczema symptoms described above, patients often have one or more associated disorders.
- Eczema patients often have ichthyosis, dry skin (xerosis) and many other skin conditions that are not the result of infections. People with eczema have increased chances of developing other types of skin problems.
- Almost three-fourths of children with eczema also have nasal allergies. These allergies, called allergic rhinitis or atopic rhinitis may be either seasonal or non-seasonal. Rose fever and hay fever are two types of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Examples of non-seasonal rhinitis include allergies caused by cigarette smoke, mold spores, dust, pet dander and various other environmental allergies.
- Eczema symptoms are sometimes accompanied by eye disorders. Conjunctivitis is one such common disorder – it involves inflammation of the tissues on the eyelid. Keratoconus, where the cornea of the eye becomes distorted and cone shaped, is another possible complication that occurs in approximately one percent of children with atopic dermatitis. About four to twelve percent of children are seen to develop cataracts that cause vision problems, sometimes by age 20.
- Some children with eczema develop social problems as well. When the skin has extensive lesions that are highly noticeable, the child may tend to withdraw from social interaction. Severe eczema may necessitate absences from school and add to the problem. Adolescents are particularly concerned with appearance and they may avoid sports and other activities in a bid to minimize sweating.
- Other eczema symptoms include secondary skin infections. The skin always has bacteria that reside on it. Excessive scratching of itchy skin causes breaks on the skin which can get infected by bacteria.
If one or more of the primary or secondary eczema symptoms is present in child, the parents should immediately consult a medical professional. Although eczema rarely leads to emergency situations, it should be treated correctly without delay.