Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition and presents itself as very dry, cracked, itchy and irritated skin which can be very painful, especially for babies and children. Where on the body and the extent of eczema varies from person to person and individuals can experience eczema very differently from each other.
The exact cause of eczema is still largely unknown but it is generally believed that a combination both of genetic pre-disposition and environmental factors play a large part.
Similarly, to dry and sensitive skin, the protective skin barrier isn't functioning as effectively as it should be in those suffering with eczema. The lipid layer in the stratum corneum contains a lower level of natural moisturising factors which help hold onto water and keep skin hydrated. It also has a lower amount of the lipid layer meaning it's much easier for water to leave the skin both from the surface cells but also from deeper skin layers. This causes the skin to feel very dry and dehydrated as it is unable to maintain moisture in the same way healthy skin can.
Having dry skin makes the skin more reactive to individual triggers and inflammation. And every person has different triggers flares: it can be anything from food allergies, stress, clothing material, personal care products or environmental allergens such as pollen and dust that will trigger a flare. Learning what aggravates an individual's eczema is important in order to avoid the things that trigger a flare.
It is vital to keep eczema-prone skin moisturised as this helps fill the gaps that are in the stratum corneum which support the functioning of the skin barrier and reduce the amount of water lost by forming a protective film over the skin. Regularly moisturising the skin also helps leave the skin feeling healthy. Itching the skin, although tempting to relieve the immediate sensation, can break the skin barrier down even further which in turn worsens the symptoms of eczema and the damage to the skin barrier.
For little ones, gloves at night can really help to prevent scratching in their sleep.