Friday, June 1, 2012

Dermatitis--An Exact Science...NOT!!!

Recently, I have seen and heard about quite a few people suffering from skin irritation.  It could be as minor as the small patch of tiny bumps on my sister's cheek that won't go away, or as pervasive as eczema which has taken over a person's entire body. Often, people ask what can be done to remedy this.  I wish I had a simple answer, but unfortunately, dermatitis is not simple.

I am a sufferer of dermatitis, in fact, I had had struggles with moderate eczema since childhood.  Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a fancy term for a type of dermatitis.  And dermatitis is an even fancier word, but it really just means inflammation with affects the epidermis (the top few layers of the skin).  It is a very broad and generalized term, and there are many reasons why people have inflammatory responses. 

The eczema I had as a small child was pretty common.  I would get patches of itchy rash on the inner knee and elbow area (not on the actual knee or elbow, but on the other side of the joints).  They would shift in appearance from moist, oozy, reddish bumps clustered together to dry, rough, and cracked patches.  As an adolescent, one of my eczema patches on my wrist even got infected, which cause a very odd-looking area of open skin in the shape of a sunburst that leaves a faint scar to this day.

My dermatitis has been linked to allergies.  I am allergic to many grasses, trees, and molds.  While I don't have the problem of sneezing and red eyes like some do (my husband sometimes sneezes 10 times in a row!), the allergic reaction has always shown up on my skin.   There is often a genetic link as well.  People with a family history of allergies and asthma can be prone to skin inflammation of different kinds. I had an allergy to milk as a little girl, when I consumed certain quantities of dairy it would make my skin angry and fire up my dermatitis.  When I was a teen, I worked in a library shelving books.  The exposure to dusty books, coupled with the use of a lotion I had been using caused chronic contact dermatitis on my fingers and hands.  Contact dermatitis means that your skin becomes inflamed when in contact with something of which you are sensitive to.  Like me, many people don't realize that their occupation or hobby may be exacerbating a case of contact dermatitis.
Jobs where people have to wash their hands alot--medical fields, food service, esthicicans, etc., cause many cases of contact dermatitis. Many people don't take into account the impact all that washing has on the skin.  And people suffer with painful rashes on the ears and abdomen for years before the realized that they were allergic to the nickel from their jewelry or belts.

Other common skin inflammatory issues include seborrhea and peri-oral dermatitis. Again, these are related to allergies and tend to run in families.  Seborrhea (or seborrheic dermatitis) is common in the very young and the very old, and often manifests itself on the scalp and in the ears, creating oily flakes of skin.  Peri-oral dermatitis is inflammation of the nasal labial folds (smile lines), and the skin surrounding the mouth.  With this one, there is a big "Catch 22" factor.  Usually people will lick their lips to try to alleviate the dry feeling, but this only serves to further dry out  and irritate the skin.  In my family, I have seen some pretty nasty cases of this one, where there is a ring of dry, darkened skin around the mouth.

Psoriasis is another big skin condition.  It is different; however, because it is an auto-immune disorder.  The skin cells attack each other, causing "plaques" of  reddish skin with silvery scales.  It can be very painful, even more so than eczema (and eczema can be bad!) and is not treated in the same manner as dermatitis.

There are many factors that cause dermal conditions to flare:
*Exposure to a certain ingedient
*Over exposure to water (as in frequent hand washing)
*Exposure to the sun
*Certain internal medications

If you or your little one is suffering from a rash this season, you are by no means alone.  There are some things I will suggest next time to treat dermatitis and help it heal.  But for the most part, these skin conditions don't get get cured.  Many times children grow out of dermatitis, but not always. When the patches are well established and moderate to severe, the only effective way to get rid of them is to have a doctor prescribe a medium-strength corticosteroid.  The good news is there are many things you van try to keep the issue at bay and prevent flare ups from occurring!

Stay tuned for part 2,

No comments:

Post a Comment