What is Eczema?
Is your skin dry, cracked and itchy? Is your skin so dry and sensitive that it is getting thicker in the places you have been scratching? If so, then you may have eczema - a common dry skin disease that tends to appear on the hands, behind the elbows (called the antecubital fossa) and behind the knees. You can even get eczema on the face.
If you suffer from severely dry skin, you know that the itching and irritation of eczema can really impact on your confidence and quality of life. Have you ever noticed that your skin inches more at night? That is a common symptom of eczema. Using an eczema cream or a soothing oil at night and taking an antihistamine like diphenhydramine can help you get a good night's sleep.
Here we review the causes of eczema, and the role of the skin barrier in this skin disease.
What is eczema?
Eczema is also called atopic dermatitis. The word ‘dermatitis’ basically means ‘skin irritation’. Eczema is caused by an impaired skin barrier that leads to dryness and inflammation.
Eczema is a chronic, long-term condition that is usually genetic but can be acquired. Many people think they have eczema when it is actually psoriasis, an allergic reaction or another skin disorder. If you have eczema, or think you have eczema, then be sure to schedule a consultation with your dermatologist because there are many new eczema prescription medications on the market that your doctor can prescribe for you. You can combine these eczema medications with eczema creams to soothe and calm irritated skin.
What’s the Difference Between Eczema and Dry Skin?
Dry skin is the most common symptom of eczema, but it is possible to have dry skin without having eczema. Eczema is a skin disease - you cannot have eczema without having dry skin.
What causes eczema?
The impaired skin barrier caused by eczema is often the result of a genetic deficiency of filaggrin - a skin protein that plays an essential role in the outermost layer of the skin’s surface (the epidermis).
The epidermis is the skin’s natural barrier that helps to prevent moisture loss and protect the body from bacteria or allergens (e.g. pollen or dust mites). If this skin barrier is impaired, then skin diseases like eczema can be the result.
While predominantly caused by a deficiency of filaggrin, eczema can also be acquired by using the wrong cleansers or moisturizers; prolonged exposure to chlorinated water; excessive friction; and dry climates.
What is the skin barrier?
The skin barrier is an essential structure on the surface of the skin that has an impact on the skin’s ability to hold moisture, and prevent attack from allergens, irritants and bacteria. By doing so, it protects the other layers of the skin and cells in the body.
The skin barrier is located in the stratum corneum, on the top layer of the epidermis, and is composed of keratinocyte cells and fine layers of lipids that stack between the skin cells to protect them and make them water tight.
A properly functioning skin barrier is essential for your skin’s overall health and appearance, but when the skin barrier is damaged or impaired it can lead to something known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL). In addition, bacteria and allergens can also easily enter the lower surfaces of the skin when the skin barrier is impaired, which can lead to additional skin complaints.
This impairment of the skin barrier is the primary issue in eczema, but using an appropriate eczema cream will help to restore the skin barrier and ease the symptoms of eczema.
Eczema is a common skin disease that causes dry skin, itching and redness, caused by an impairment in the skin barrier. It is a chronic, long-term condition, but use of a barrier repair cream can ease the symptoms. Read more about the best eczema creams here.