Eczema in adults: everything you need to know
Different types of eczema require different treatments
Although other types of eczema exist, atopic eczema and contact eczema are the most common.
Atopic eczema in adults
Atopic eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis.
Atopic eczema symptoms
- Dry or very dry skin
- Red patches
- Thickening of the skin
- Marks from scratching
In most cases, atopic eczema goes away before the adolescent and adult years, but some patients continue to experience symptoms later in life. Atopic dermatitis in adults can be a serious dermatosis, manifesting as chronic, thick, lichenified red patches. In cases of chronic eczema, patients experience vesicular or oozing flare-ups which alternate between periods of remission.
Itching is always intense and affects patients’ daily lives, mood, sleep and activities.
Where on the body are the patches located?
The hands, face and especially the eyelids are very often affected in adults. In some cases, however, patches appear in large skin folds and other areas of the body.
Face, arms, stomach, legs...
Inflammatory flare-ups can affect the entire skin surface (erythroderma). These widespread episodes are serious, possibly leading to complications such as infections and metabolic disorders, and require hospitalization.
A particular case: "head and neck" dermatitis
A particular form of atopic eczema in adults appears exclusively, or predominantly, on the face and neck. Here, we look for a potential abnormal sensitivity to the sun (photosensitization) which may be caused by, among other things, a secondary yeast infection.
Treatments for atopic eczema are usually combined with an anti-inflammation corticosteroid treatment (known as “topical corticosteroids”) to calm flare-ups, and with an emollient which is critical for hydrating and thus repairing the skin.
A more peaceful daily life
Atopic skin is especially sensitive, and seemingly ordinary stimuli can trigger eczema flare-ups. It is helpful to know about the good habits to adopt in terms of cosmetics, diet and more. Various tools are available to lead a more peaceful professional and social life on a daily basis and to eliminate stress as an aggravating factor.
The causes of atopic eczema
Atopic eczema is a hereditary disease linked to a malfunction in the skin (which becomes more porous to irritants and allergens) and in the immune system (which becomes hyperactive). Skin becomes irritated and inflamed in response to various factors, including heat, scratching, stress, and overly harsh cleansers.
Contact eczema in adults
An allergic reaction
In the case of contact eczema, skin experiences inflammation after coming into contact with an allergen. A reaction to costume jewelry is the classic example.
The main causes of allergic contact eczema
- Nickel found mainly in metals used to make costume jewelry, glasses frames and mobile phones
- Preservatives and other ingredients in cosmetics, fragrances, cleansers or sun care products
- Even fragrances and essential oils in so-called “organic” cosmetics (no hypoallergenic guarantee)
- Components of clothing and footwear (chromium in leather, adhesives).
Work-related contact eczema
Some products or objects commonly used in certain professions can cause contact eczema. Adhesives, dyes, gloves, industrial oils... the list is endless!
Solutions and treatments
Topical corticosteroids are highly effective at treating eczema. To prevent recurrence when a contact allergy is suspected, allergy tests are required to identify the substance responsible for the allergic contact eczema and to learn how to avoid it in the future. A simple interview may be enough to pin down the cause and to eliminate it from your daily life in order to ensure treatment.