WHAT IS ECZEMA
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a persistent, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition characterised by itchy, dry, red, scaly, and sometimes weeping areas. Approximately 1 in 5 people are affected in Australia and New Zealand and therefore affects a large part of the population. (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017).
NORMAL SKIN FUNCTION
The skin is the largest organ of the body and it functions as a barrier keeping infectious, harmful or irritating agents out. It also provides the other vital functions such as managing the body’s hydration levels, electrolyte balance, body temperature, synthesizing vitamin D and operating as a sensory organ.
The lower layer – hypodermis – stores fats which have an insulating effect and form a buffer between the internal organs and the outer layer.
Some facts about the skin
Optimal pH is between 4 – 5.5 which is slightly acidic
The top layer of the skin is called the stratum corneum (SC) which is the layer that is responsible for the barrier function (Telofski, Morello III, Correa, & Stamatas, 2012).
THE ECZEMA CYCLE
“Compromised skin barrier is thought to be critical to the early onset and severity of Atopic Dermatitis” (Telofski, Morello III, Correa, & Stamatas, 2012). It has been observed that any disruption to the SC layer is linked with Eczema (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017). The disruption allows foreign particles into the lower layers of the skin which causes the body to treat them as infectious agents activating the immune system.
The immune system, in turn, releases inflammatory hormones to deal with the perceived threat. Therefore, keeping the SC intact and supporting its barrier function is key to blocking the inflammatory cascade keeping eczema symptoms under control.
The main aim of treating eczema is to manage symptoms. “The main principles of treatment are moisturisation, control of inflammation, control of itch and control of infection” (Scott-Lang & Su, 2017).
First line treatment is always to moisturise and then add other agents to control symptoms which affect skin health. The other agents which can be used to treat eczema are outside the scope of this article and this website. These are to be used after medical consultation and under medical supervision.
Please view attached links to find more information about eczema.