Itchy Issues (Eczema)

Don’t let your eczema drive you crazy!

What is eczema?
Eczema (pronounced Ex-mah) is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three Australians at some stage in their lives.

Although eczema is not a life-threatening disease, it can certainly affect quality of life. Itching can cause sleepless nights and can place a strain upon family relationships. Flare-ups can cause absence from school, work and social activities.

What are the symptoms of eczema?
The skin becomes red, dry, moderately to severely itchy and scaly. In severe cases, the skin can start weeping or bleeding. Sometimes skin can become infected.

In babies, the rash usually appears on the face, elbows or knees. In older children and adults, the rash appears more commonly on the hands, neck, inner elbows, backs of the knees and ankles.

Although eczema can affect people of all ages, it usually appears in early childhood and disappears around six years of age.

What causes eczema?
It’s not clear exactly what causes eczema, but there are indications that it’s linked to the following:

  • A family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever;
  • Stress;
  • Irritants such as tobacco smoke, chemicals, weather (hot and humid or cold and dry conditions) and air conditioning or overheating; and
  • Allergens such as house dust mites, moulds, grasses, plant pollens, some foods, pets and clothing, soaps, shampoos and washing powders, cosmetics and toiletries.

Is there a cure?
Although there is no known cure for eczema and it can be a lifelong condition, treatment can offer symptom control.

Your doctor can provide soothing creams which can help to reduce symptoms. However, it’s best to try and avoid outbreaks in the first place. Speak to your doctor or Aboriginal health worker about ways that you can avoid outbreaks, such as diet and lifestyle changes.

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