Edwin Rukambira, of a slightly light-skinned complexion, has had recurrent itchy and unusually thickened patches on his skin since he was around five. Mostly, the rashes appear on the inner softer part of his elbow and behind his knees. When scratched, the patches open up and become sores. When it began, the lad, 17, was assured that it was a passing allergy but reassurance is no medication.
“At times it dies down for a while and resumes later. It is less when I use bar soap to take a shower or when I stay away from lotions. Pollen and dusty environments seem to arouse the condition,” Edwin says.
Dr Annette Igabire, a dermatologist in Remera, says eczema is a condition that manifests itself in patches of itchy, dry, thickened and reddened skin, usually on the hands, neck, face, and legs, but it can occur anywhere. When scratched, the patches may open up as sore, which could be easily get infected.
“Eczema can affect people of any age, although the condition is most common in infants, and about 85 per cent of those affected have an onset prior to five years of age. Eczema will permanently resolve by age three in about half of affected infants. In others, the condition tends to recur throughout life. People with eczema often have a family history of the condition or a family history of other allergic conditions, such as asthma or hay fever. Eczema is slightly more common in girls than in boys and occurs in people of all races,” Dr Igabire says.
She says scientists do not know the exact cause of eczema, but a defect of the skin that impairs its function as a barrier, possibly combined with an abnormal function of the immune system, is believed to be an important factor. Asthma, hay fever, and eczema often occur in the same families.
The current belief is that eczema is caused by a combination of factors that include genetics, abnormal function of the immune system, environment, activities that may cause skin to be more sensitive and defects in the skin barrier that allow moisture out and germs in.
According to Dr Bishumba Karara, a general in Kiyovu, eczema can be triggered by substances that come in contact with the skin, such as soaps, cosmetics, clothing, detergents, jewelry, or sweat. Environmental allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) may also cause outbreaks of eczema. Changes in temperature or humidity, or even psychological stress, can lead to outbreaks of eczema in some people.
Signs and symptoms of eczema
Dr Bishumba says in children and adults, eczema typically occurs in a typical distribution on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles. In infants, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck. Eczema can sometimes occur as a brief reaction that only leads to symptoms for a few hours or days, but in other cases, the symptoms persist over a longer time and are referred to as chronic dermatitis.
Dr Igabire says to diagnose eczema, doctors rely on a thorough physical examination of the skin as well as the patient’s account of the history of the condition. In particular, the doctor will ask when the condition appeared, if the condition is associated with any changes in environment or contact with certain materials, and whether it is aggravated in any specific situations.
“Eczema may have a similar appearance to other diseases of the skin, including infections or reactions to certain medications, so the diagnosis is not always simple. In some cases, a biopsy of the skin may be taken to rule out other skin diseases that may be producing signs and symptoms similar to eczema,” Dr Igabire says.
If a doctor suspects that a patient has allergic contact dermatitis, allergy tests, possibly including a skin ‘patch test,’ may be carried out to identify the specific trigger of the condition, according to Dr Melissa Conrad Stöppler, a US board-certified anatomic pathologist, in an article published on the web site, medicinenet.com. There are no laboratory or blood tests that can be used diagnose eczema.
“Corticosteroid creams are sometimes prescribed to decrease the inflammatory reaction in the skin. These may be mild-, medium-, or high-potency corticosteroid creams depending upon the severity of the symptoms. If itching is severe, oral antihistamines may be prescribed,” Dr Stöppler says.
To control itching, the sedative type antihistamine drugs appear to be most effective.
Many people wonder whether eczema can be prevented but Dr Igabire says the disease is chronic, incurable condition that can often resolve spontaneously. She adds that good skin care is a key component in controlling eczema.
The treatment of eczema, according to doctors, are to prevent itching, inflammation, and worsening of the condition. Treatment of eczema may involve both lifestyle changes and the use of medications.
Types of eczematous dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease characterised by itchy, inflamed skin and is the most common cause of eczema. The condition tends to come and go, depending on exposures to triggers or causative factors. Factors that may cause atopic dermatitis (allergens) include environmental factors like molds, pollen, or pollutants; contact irritants like soaps, detergents, jewelry, or perfumes.
Contact eczema is a localised reaction that includes redness, itching, and burning in areas where the skin has come into contact with an allergy-causing substance to which an individual is sensitised or with a general irritant such as an acid, or chemicals.
Seborrheic eczema is a form of skin inflammation of unknown cause. The signs and symptoms of seborrheic eczema include yellowish, oily, scaly patches of skin on the scalp, face, and occasionally other parts of the body.
Nummular eczema is characterised by coin-shaped patches of irritated skin, most commonly located on the arms, back, buttocks, and lower legs, that may be extremely itchy.
Lichen simplex chronicus is a chronic skin inflammation caused by a scratch-itch cycle that begins with a localised itch (such as an insect bite) that becomes intensely irritated when scratched.
Dyshidrotic eczema (dyshidrotic dermatitis) is an irritation of the skin on the palms of hands and soles of the feet characterised by clear, deep blisters that itch and burn.
Care for your skin naturally
We often complain about our skins being rough and we are ready to pay any price to get a glowing skin. It is high time give your topical creams some backup, and care for your face naturally with the following tips for a flawless complexion.
You have probably used papaya in a facial scrub, but are you eating it, too? This fruit is a vitamin C serum and exfoliant all-in-one. It contains two days’ worth of vitamin C, which helps to brighten and tighten skin. It’s packed with vitamin A compounds, which regulate cell turnover in much the same way that a topical retinol-A does, albeit gentler. Papaya also contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which helps decrease redness in the skin by combating inflammation.
You have heard of coconut water. Now it’s time to get acquainted with its even richer counterpart, coconut kefir, which is made by fermenting coconut water with beneficial bacteria. A shot of coconut kefir contains 15 billion colony-forming unit of probiotics, which is three times more than most commercial yogurt. These beneficial bacteria keep skin clear by crowding out pathogenic microbes, which can cause acne and hormonal imbalances. Coconut kefir is naturally sweet, which means it can also help to appease cravings for our skin’s biggest foe, sugar.
Black sesame seeds
If late nights, alcohol, and indulgent food have taken a toll, black sesame seeds help restore your skin’s radiance and elasticity. Packed with essential fats, oleic acid, amino acids, potassium, and fiber, these seeds are so abundant in skin-beautifying nutrients that they deserve to be added to every meal-and probably could be!
Lemon juice helps remove fat-soluble toxins and old hormones, which may trigger breakouts and worsen oily skin. Lemon juice also emulsifies fats, which helps keep skin hydrated. Not to be left out, the lemon rind contains the flavonoid limonoid, which kills bacteria in the mouth and intestines, preventing bacterial-driven acne flare-ups.
The easy recipes: Starting your day with hot water and lemon is no secret in the beauty world, but to get the detoxifying benefits, you’ll want to use the juice of at least half a lemon. Also add more lemon into your diet by using a lemon and olive oil dressing and by topping sautéed vegetables with organic lemon zest.
If you are only eating pumpkin seeds in October, you’re missing out. Loaded with zinc, vitamin E, sulfur, and omega-3 fats, the seeds heal, nourish, restore, and hydrate the skin. They can also repair blemish marks when you have had a breakout.
Heading to the beach or poolside? Start your day with a fresh tomato juice. The lycopene in tomatoes helps prevent ultraviolet radiation and ultraviolet B damage. An eight-ounce glass gives you a sun protection factor of five, so don’t forget to add some sunscreen! Tomato juice also brings back life to dull skin.
Avocados are excellent source of vitamin E and B vitamins which is good for your skin. An added benefit is that avocados can lower cholesterol.
Adult skin problems
The skin is the largest organ in the body. It is composed of a superficial protective barrier that is designed to prevent the outside environment from gaining access to the interior. It contains various glands, nerves and blood vessels important in maintaining normal bodily functions. When something goes awry, it is often easily visible during an examination of the skin.
Shingles is a rash of raised dots that develops into painful blisters and lasts about two weeks.
Rosacea causes redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, forehead, even in the eyes.
Cold sores last 7-10 days; they’re contagious until completely crusted over.
Razor bumps occur when the sharp edge of closely shaven hair curls back and grows into the skin, causing irritation and pimples, and even scarring.
A skin tag is a small flap of flesh-colored or slightly darker tissue that hangs off the skin by a connecting stalk.
Acne pimples are a plug of fat, skin, and keratin. When open, the plug is called a blackhead, and when closed, a whitehead.
Interdigital, or toe web infection, is the most common kind of athlete’s foot.
Age or liver spots are the result of sun exposure, which is why they tend to appear on areas that get a lot of sun.
Melasma (pregnancy mask) is characterised by tan or brown patches on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin.
In most cases, common warts appear on the fingers or hands.
Seborrheic keratoses is a noncancerous growth that may be dark or multicolored, and usually have a grainy surface that easily crumbles.