Eczema is an inflammatory skin disease characterized by the appearance of red patches, crusts, and scales on various parts of the body. It is a progressive disease that can become complicated if not properly managed. Learn more about the potential dangers of eczema.
Eczema, in brief.
Theeczema is a skin inflammatory condition characterized by the appearance of red, dry, and rough patches with irregular outlines. These lesions are often accompanied by intense itching. Subsequently, vesicles containing a clear liquid may form. When scratched, these vesicles burst and cause oozing. In France, about 2.5 million people are affected by eczema, making it one of the main reasons for consultation with dermatologists, representing about 30% of cases. Different forms of eczema exist, among which atopic eczema and contact eczema are the most common.
Theatopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a result of a genetic predisposition. Individuals suffering from this type of eczema have a fragile skin barrier, which easily allows allergens to penetrate. Moreover, their immune system reacts violently to external stimuli , causing disproportionate inflammatory responses when the skin is exposed to common environmental allergens (animal hair, pollen, dust...).
Thecontact eczema, or contact dermatitis, occurs after the skin comes into contact with a specific allergenic substance. Four major sources of allergens, present in our daily environment, are generally the cause of contact eczema. These include clothing items, cosmetics, topical medications, and occupational allergens, that is, those present at work (cement, paint, pesticides, gloves...). Thus, although contact eczema causes symptoms similar to those of atopic eczema, its origin is different and is not linked to genetics.
Eczema: Is it dangerous?
Eczema, in most cases, is benign and harmless. Even though the itching and psychological impact of eczema cannot be overlooked, this disease does not pose a life-threatening risk to health. Moreover, appropriate management and adherence to dermatological advice can limit its impact on the quality of life of those affected. However, it is important to emphasize that eczema can, in rare cases, become complicated and progress to more severe forms.
Following the scratching of lesions, it can happen that the eczema becomes infected. Certain viruses, like herpes, certain bacteria, like staphylococcus aureus, or even certain fungi, like the candida albicans, can colonize the wound and lead to complications. Depending on the microorganism causing the infection, it can cause pain and intensify itching/redness. It is imperative to consult a dermatologist in case of infection, so that they can identify the source and prescribe an appropriate treatment (antifungals if it's fungi, antivirals if they are viruses, and antibiotics in case of bacterial colonization).
A Generalization of Eczema.
One of the most severe complications of eczema is its generalization, also referred to as erythroderma. Eczema is said to be generalized when the patches spread. They can sometimes cover up to 90% of the body. In addition to the usual redness and itching, edema is also present. This form of eczema constitutes a dermatological emergency and sometimes requires hospitalization.
Some advice to prevent the risks of eczema.
The complications of eczema can be avoided by adopting certain daily habits. The following advice can be useful in this regard:
Avoid scratching eczematous lesions.
When we scratch ourselves, there is a significant risk of opening skin lesions, thereby creating opportunities for bacteria and viruses to enter. To avoid scratching during sleep, some people, for example, opt for cotton gloves. It is also recommended to keep nails short to prevent accidental injuries. Finally, in addition to these precautions, the use of ingredients such as thermal water or certain essential oils, and the application of cold, can help soothe itching.
Regularly apply anemollient.
To hydrate and protect the skin from the risk of infection, it is recommended to apply an emollient care product at least once a day. Possessing a very rich texture, this type of product forms a veil on the skin's surface, similar to the natural hydrolipidic film, to limit dehydration and the penetration of pathogens or allergens. We also advise you to consistently use an emollient after showering, as water can have a drying effect on the skin. Finally, avoid moisturizers containing perfumes, which can irritate sensitive, atopic skin.
At the slightest doubt, consult a dermatologist.
If you notice a change in the appearance of your lesions or a generalization of your eczema, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional. They will be able to determine if your eczema is indeed worsening and, if that is the case, prescribe a treatment. The earlier the intervention, the less significant the complications.
GOLDENBERG G. & al. Eczema. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (2011).
BORRADORI L. & al. Dermatologie et infections sexuellement transmissibles. Elsevier Masson (2017).