United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi : Have you ever suffered from itchy dry skin and feel like there is no cure? Then you are not alone. It could be that you are suffering from eczema, a skin condition that it is very common around the globe. The hot and dry conditions of the UAE mean that symptoms can be exacerbated.
In general, terms “eczema” and “dermatitis” are used interchangeably. Eczema is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition and is most common in people with a family history of allergic disorders such as asthma, rhinitis or hay fever, since these conditions are based on genetics. In eczema, skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly, and in severe cases, may weep, bleed, or crust over – causing extreme discomfort. In more severe cases, the skin may become infected, suddenly flare up then subside for no apparent reason.
Atopic eczema is the most common type and generally when discussing eczema, it is this type that is being referred to. Worldwide, the prevalence is 15-20%, with more than 30% in developed countries.
However, this skin condition has many different manifestations, particularly when it comes to the impact of climate and weather. Cold winters in some regions of the world can lead skin to become excessively dry and, if not treated properly, can cause irritation and eczema to flare. Extremely hot weather, of the kind experienced commonly in the UAE, can also increase itchiness, with sweat irritating the affected skin.
Dr Uttam Kumar, specialist in dermatology at Burjeel Hospital explains that eczema is amongst the most common problems he sees in the clinic, along with allergies and urticaria (hives) and psoriasis. Many of these patients suffer in silence for longer than necessary.
Burjeel Hospital’s team of dermatology experts are well equipped to treat most cases and help their patients alleviate any discomfort or stress they may feel from this skin condition. Steroids are often prescribed but are not a long term solution for treating eczema. They are only used to treat the initial inflammation. Eczema flare-ups can be avoided in many ways, for example, the skin should be kept moist by using bland emollients (moisturizers) which are allergen-free and fragrance-free. Other ways to prevent an outbreak can include: wearing 100% cotton or soft fabrics, using a mild soap-free cleanser or hypo-allergenic bath oil in lukewarm water, avoiding heavy sweating, changing bed linen regularly as well as avoiding any exposure to dust mites (ventilating regularly).
Because of the genetic, and recurring, nature of the condition, eczema often cannot be fully cured but can be contained and symptoms lessened. Using emollient moisturizer will keep the dry skin hydrated and avoid any irritants you can identify, which might be in scents, fabrics and clothing or food.
“People do have a tendency of ignoring problems with their skin, because they do not perceive some issues to be harmful if they are not causing any problems,” said Dr Kumar. “That is why it’s so important to see a doctor if you’re unsure.”