Eczema on Face
There’s nothing more irritating than having your face covered with scaly skin and blisters. It’s not only discomforting but a cause of public embarrassment as well. This is how eczema on face affects the quality of life of its victim. Understanding its causes and pathogenesis is extremely important so that necessary measures can be taken to cure this health peril.
Understanding The Definition
Eczema is a part of a bigger group of diseases – atopic dermatitis. The word atopic means any disease that possesses an inherited tendency to produce an allergic reaction in a genetically susceptible individual. These allergic reactions can range from eczema to asthma and hay fever. Eczema is a variant of atopic dermatitis. It causes the skin to become hypersensitive to certain allergens. As a result, the skin undergoes inflammation and becomes red, swollen and irritated, often leading to excessive scratching and bruising. You can also learn about eczema on eyelids here.
As per the statistics, 35 million Americans are currently suffering from eczema with seventy percent of the cases falling in the pediatric age group. Children usually resolve the disease by adolescence while many adults continue to suffer from symptoms throughout their life. The disease can partially be controlled by medication and symptoms can be reversed. However, flares are quite common.
Etiology & Pathogenesis
Eczema is an idiopathic disease which seems to stem up in genetically predisposed individuals. Families with the history of asthma and allergies are more likely to pass on this disease to their future generations. However, many researchers have attributed the disease to environmental factors and dietary habits. But whatever the cause, have you ever wondered what causes the skin to undergo such severe inflammation?
Eczema is basically a hypersensitivity reaction. In simple words, the skin of an eczema patient is more sensitive to irritants as compared to the skin of a normal individual. As a result, the immune system of the patient responds over-actively whenever the skin is exposed to any such irritant. The immune cells then produce an inflammatory reaction that causes the skin to become warm and red. These irritants can be anything – metal surface, cold weather, soaps, detergents, dust, smoke animal dander and even infections can trigger such response. Fortunately, this condition is not contagious and can be kept in check and balance by avoiding such irritants.
Eczema can affect any body part but it has a special predilection for face, wrists, hands, back of the knees and feet. The disease manifests as an itchy rash in its initial stages. Excessive scratching causes the affected skin to become dry, sensitive, thickened and scaly. The rash is initially red in color which turns leathery brown in the later phase of the disease. Swelling and pigmentation of the skin is a general complaint in all patients with eczema on face. In severe cases, the rash can ooze out blood or discharge which is then replaced by hard crusts and scale. The condition eventually resolves with time, only to flare up sometime later in life.
Diagnosing The Disease
Diagnosis of eczema is basically that of exclusion which means that other skin conditions must be ruled out before labeling a patient as having eczema. The ideal option, in this case, would be to consult a dermatologist. The streamlined approach to reach the diagnosis usually starts with a thorough medical history and careful physical examination. Most doctors would diagnose eczema by just looking at the condition of the skin. However, in complicated cases, laboratory tests for allergies are present to make a confirmed diagnosis. High titers of IgE antibodies in the blood point towards an allergic etiology.
Face eczema is a worrisome problem which needs to be looked after right away. Delay in treatment can not only worsen the condition but also affect the personality of an individual. Whatever method of treatment is chosen, the goal is to relieve the symptoms of itching and dryness. The other objective is to stop the overactive response of the immune system and prevent further exacerbation of the disease.
The first line treatment of eczema is to use a pharmacological drug prescribed by the dermatologist. Many over-the-counter medications are available these days that are exceptional and very effective in relieving the symptoms.
Hydrocortisone is the most efficient drug when it comes to reducing inflammation. Belonging to the class of steroids, it inactivates the immune system and prevents it from spiking up the inflammatory mediators. Steroids are applied topically and they work wonders in controlling itching and relieving dryness.
Anti-histamines are an excellent choice to control itching. They work by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells and basophils. Histamine is a mediator that promotes inflammation and by reducing its concentration in the blood, the inflammatory process is halted.
Topical or oral antibiotics are only prescribed if continuous scratching has predisposed the skin to infection. This approach is not a part of regular treatment and should not be followed without doctor’s advice.
Coal tar is a keratoplastic drug which controls itching, scaling and flaking by reducing the growth potential of skin cells. Its use in eczema is becoming widely popular these days.
Application of ultraviolet light for a limited period of time can cure mild to moderate eczema. However, this approach is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer hence it’s not commonly employed.
This drug belongs to the class of immunosuppressant – drugs that suppress the immune response. Currently approved for the treatment of atopic eczema, it is highly effective for keeping the condition under control and improving the skin problems.
This new class of drugs has recently been approved by FDA although it carries a black box warning because of its potential side effects. Elidel and Protopic are two licensed drugs in this class and they’re used to cure resistant cases of eczema on face. However, it’s not safe for use in children under two years of age.
Topical application of vitamin B12 has proven to relieve symptoms of eczema. No commercial product is being marketed till date but off-the-counter formulas are widely in use.
Home Remedies For Eczema on Face
The periodic flare-ups of eczema are very common and instead of going to the doctor every single time, these home remedies can be really beneficial in subsiding the symptoms.
This benevolent miracle can do wonders when it comes to skincare. Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It not only soothes the dry skin but also prevents a buildup of bacteria on the face.
Eczema on face tends to exacerbate in cold weather because of dry air. Sleeping with a cool mist humidifier will keep the moisture content in your room high thus keeping your skin damp.
A research at Columbia University concluded that stress is a significant aggravator of eczema flare-ups. Regular meditation keeps the level of stress hormones in the lower range and prevents exacerbation of the disease.
Exercise is an excellent way to keep the flaky red skin patches at bay. It’s again a stress-reducing activity that enhances peace of mind and melts away the anxiety.
Hot showers and sauna have a tendency to dry out the skin. Make it a habit to keep the temperature of your bathing water low so that your skin can retain its moisture.
Oatmeal face scrubs are highly revitalizing. They’re packed with moisture and nutrients to rejuvenate dry, irritated skin. It calms down the itching and keeps the redness at bay. An oatmeal bath is an even better alternative if you’ve got eczematic patches all over your body.
Modify your wardrobe:
Get rid of all the woolen outfits and switch to lighter fabrics like cotton and silk. They reduce the friction against the skin and keep it irritant-free.
Change your detergent:
Opt for a chemical-free and fragrance-free detergent that is suitable for sensitive skin. Fancy soaps and detergents are loaded with chemicals that agitate the skin and promote flare-ups.
Sunflower oil is naturally capable of strengthening the skin’s barrier function and thus prevents allergens to trigger a reaction. With its anti-inflammatory properties, it has become widely popular as the herbal remedy for eczema on face.
Application of physical pressure at certain points has shown to block the process of lichenification thus preventing the appearance of thick, leathery skin.
Do’s and Don’ts of Eczema on Face
- Moisturize your face with a thick cream or lotion after taking a bath.
- Use a gentle cleanser that’s specially designed for super sensitive skin.
- Wear a sunscreen when going out in bright sunlight. Some people experience flare-ups in sunlight.
- Stay away from foods that cause an outbreak.
- Wash your face after sweating.
- Change the temperature or humidity of your environment too abruptly.
- Scratch your face to relieve the itch.
- Use harsh chemicals and makeup products on your face.
- Take stress.
- Consume excessive alcohol.