Eczema or Dermatitis?
First of all, to avoid any confusion, the terms eczema and dermatitis are interchangeable.
There are many different kinds of eczema which can also be confusing:
Atopic, seborrhoeic, irritant, gravitational/stasis, pompholyx, allergic contact, Lichen simplex and asteatotic eczema.
But for today, let’s simplify things and concentrate on the most common type – atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis.
Atopic eczema is one of three conditions which fall under the term atopy. The other two conditions are hay fever and asthma. All three are allergies and tend to run in families.
Atopic eczema sufferers produce excessive amounts of immunoglobulin E (IgE is an antibody) which causes the release of inflammatory mediators (chemicals) such as histamine but many other chemicals are also involved. These chemicals cause signs and symptoms of eczema such as the unbearable itching and inflammation.
Triggers vary from person to person and include food allergies e.g. cow’s milk, mould spores, house dust mites, bubble bath. However for some people their triggers are unknown. Stress commonly exacerbates flare-ups.
Skin barrier dysfunction is also implicated in atopic eczema sufferers. Lack of filaggrin, a protein in the stratum corneum layer of the epidermis causes dry skin and a greater propensity for infection.