An inflammation of the skin, usually causing itching and sometimes scaling or blisters. There are several different types of eczema; some forms are known as dermatitis. Atopic eczema is a chronic, superficial inflammation that occurs in people with an inherited tendency towards allergy. The condition is common in babies. An intensely itchy rash occurs, usually on the face, in the elbow creases, and behind the knees. The skin often scales, and small red pimples may appear. For mild cases, emollients help keep the skin soft. In severe cases, corticosteroid ointments may be used. Antihistamine drugs may reduce itching. Excluding certain foods from the diet may be helpful. Atopic eczema often clears up on its own as a child grows older. Nummular eczema usually occurs in adults. The cause is unknown. It produces circular, itchy, scaling patches anywhere on the skin, similar to those of tinea (ringworm). Topical corticosteroids may reduce the inflammation, but the disorder is often persistent. Hand eczema is usually caused by irritant substances such as detergents, but may occur for no apparent reason. Itchy blisters develop, usually on the palms, and the skin may become scaly and cracked. Hand eczema usually improves if emollients are used and cotton gloves with rubber gloves over them are worn when coming into contact with irritants. If the eczema is severe, corticosteroids may be prescribed. Stasis eczema occurs in people with varicose veins. The skin on the legs may become irritated, inflamed, and discoloured. The most important factor is swelling of the legs, which may be controlled with compression bandages or stockings. Ointments containing corticosteroids may give temporary relief.


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