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International Health Cover > Resources > Health and Safety Articles >  Eczema



What exactly is eczema?

Eczema is a generic term used to describe a family of skin conditions that cause the skin to become red, swollen, itchy and painful, and sometimes covered with small vesicles that, after rupturing, leave the skin with a scaly or scabbed appearance.

 Many people use the term "eczema" to mean a specific skin condition called atopic dermatitis (which is actually a type of eczema), although there exist many other types of eczema, such as contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis, most commonly known as dandruff. 


What are the cause of eczema?

The causes of eczema can vary depending on its type. Atopic dermatitis has no known causes, although it has been hypothesised that several interacting factors (hereditary, environmental and immune-related factors) come into play.


 It usually develops in childhood, often before one year of age, and resolves on its own by age 2 years in 50% of cases.

Seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff has no known cause, as well.

It usually onsets in infancy (before 6 months of age), at puberty or after the age of 40 years, and generally results from the interaction of many factors, such as heredity, climate, stress and overall general health.


For other types of eczema the exact cause has been well established, instead. For example, contact dermatitis can result either from the exposure of the skin to common irritants such as detergents and a variety of household products (irritant contact dermatitis), or from the contact of the skin with specific substances, called allergens, that trigger an allergic reaction in  susceptible individuals (allergic contact dermatitis).


Treatment* for eczema

Regardless of the type of eczema, the treatment of this skin condition is often a challenge and generally requires a combination of therapies, including medications (antibiotics, antihistamines, corticosteroids), phototherapy (by exposing the patient to UV light), lifestyle changes and dietary supplements.

It is up to the physician or dermatologist to determine the most effective treatment plan for each individual, on the basis of the type, extent and severity of the eczema.


It is important to remember that generally the treatment of eczema is only symptomatic. In other words it is designed to treat the symptoms, not the cause of eczema. That's why eczema (regardless of the type) often tends to flare up when exposed to certain triggering factors.


Sometimes it is possible to exactly identify and hence control these triggering factors (for example irritants, allergens, stress and cold weather), thereby preventing the recurrence of eczema, while at other times this is not possible and therefore the only option is to treat eczema whenever it occurs or recurs.


Because the treatment of eczema usually involves a combination of many different therapies and is often needed for prolonged or repeated periods, its costs should be covered by a  proper medical insurance.


 International Health Cover is an International Health Insurance advisor. We  offer free advice to accurately choose over a range of International Medical Insurance plans.

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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.