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Eczema Duration: How Long Does the Skin Condition Last?
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by redness rashes, bumps, fissures, cracked skin, flakiness, dryness, painful sores, and itchiness.
It is synonymous with atopic dermatitis as the latter is the most common form of eczema usually hereditary in nature but also triggered by a variety of environmental factors.
Types of Eczema
Other types of eczema include contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is triggered by external irritants such as soaps, perfumes, dyes, chemicals, preservatives, cleaning materials, bleach, plants like poison ivy, and certain metals and fabrics like nickel and wool.
Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by Malassezia yeast which is normally present on the skin, but its overgrowth can cause dry skin, red, scaly patches and flakiness on the scalp, upper chest, and the back, and dandruff on the scalp.
These are coin-shaped lesions that may ooze clear fluids and crust and are usually caused by skin injuries, heavy alcohol consumption, heat, dry air, or humidity amongst other causes. They are treated with barrier creams, lotions, bandages, and anti-inflammatory medications amongst others.
This type of eczema is also called lichen simplex chronicus, referring to itchy leathery patches of skin raised above the rest of your skin, and may be discolored, dark, and wrinkled.
These can occur on your forearms, legs, groin, anus, and the back of your neck. The itchiness is often unbearable, interrupting sleep. Scratching it makes it worse and perpetuates this cycle and mental health problems or psoriasis can also exacerbate this condition.
Amongst other treatments, phototherapy is used, in which skin is exposed to UV light of a specified wavelength to restrict inflammation.
This form of eczema presents with blisters or bullae that are fluid-filled on your palms the tips of fingers and toes, or the soles of your feet.
Although the exact reason hasn’t been identified yet, it is known that this particular outbreak tends to occur during allergy season or at times in parallel to atopic dermatitis. It is often treated with petroleum jelly and cold compresses.
This type of eczema occurs on the lower parts of the legs in people with heart issues, diabetes, circulatory problems, or any other health issue that reduces blood flow to the legs.
This is often accompanied by ulcers, varicose veins, blisters, swelling, and itching of the lower legs, shins, and ankles. Mostly compression stockings and moisturizers are sued to mitigate symptoms.
Causes of Eczema
Different types of eczema can be triggered by different underlying reasons. These include −
Eczema may be passed on as a genetic trait if your parents suffer from asthma, allergies, or eczema itself, but it isn’t contagious.
When passed on genetically, 30% of people with atopic dermatitis (AD) will also have an alteration in a skin protein called filaggrin, responsible for keeping the skin moist. This mutation in turn will cause the skin to dry out much more quickly.
People with atopic dermatitis may also have a mutation in the CARD11 gene, responsible for making lymphocytes i.e., T and B cells of the immune system. The mutation causes an abnormal immune response in people with AD.
If you already have an allergy/ immune response to certain irritants like pet fur or food allergies such as peanut, gluten, or lactose intolerance, the reaction will also cause atopic dermatitis in the form of rashes in approximately 10-30% of such people.
Several external triggers from the environment can cause eczema whether you live in a rural or urban setting. These include −
Artificial irritants − Cosmetic products, shampoos, perfumes, soaps, creams
Sweat and Stress
Pollutants − Cigarette smoke, smoke/chemicals from power plants, and fumes from motor vehicles
Natural irritants − Pollen, farm/domestic animals, dirt/soil
Climate and weather − Humidity, heat/high temperature, and dry air
How Long Does Eczema Last?
Atopic dermatitis can begin showing symptoms at any point in your life, but most commonly begins in infants below the age of 12 months. For many people, their childhood/baby eczema will get better with age barring the occasional flare-up.
Others, who begin to face symptoms at other points in their life, may have to go through moderate to severe flare-ups from time to time and manage eczema as a lifelong illness.
The period for which flare-ups will last depends on both the cause of the flare-up, the type of eczema and also the stage of its healing. Contact dermatitis may only take a few weeks to recover from once the offending trigger is removed from your vicinity, or you move away from it!
On the other hand, seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis may take weeks to a few months to clear up with the use of antifungal, antihistamine, or steroidal medications along with creams and lotions to soothe the skin and prevent further irritation.
Recovery also depends on the stage at which your eczema is. The acute stage is the immediate result of contact with an allergen or trigger and presents as a rash. It should resolve within a few weeks with treatment and as the skin heals on its own.
Eczema may also be at the sub-acute stage wherein it has begun to heal but is still red, scaly, and raw- incomplete treatment or recurrence of the trigger can cause another flare-up. The chronic stage is the actual full-fledged eczema flare-up, which is how variants like atopic dermatitis present at all times.
Conclusion - How to Prevent Eczema Flare-ups
To keep your flare-ups to a minimum, stay away from your identified triggers as much as possible, and follow your treatment plan to its completion because this can even lead to the remission of symptoms.
Wear breathable cotton clothing, avoid taking excess hot baths or showers, and incorporate lifestyle changes recommended by your doctors.
Treatments could include prescription medication like corticosteroids, immunosuppressant drugs, hyaluronic acid creams, or preventative allergy shots.
You can also try at-home therapies like oatmeal baths and regular consumption of pro and prebiotics that may calm down the immune system (although this effect remains unproven)
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