The social weight of our skin
Any chronic disease carries unpleasant consequences for us. Symptoms are usually a bother at best, while in the worst cases they can kill us or make us straight up miserable. However, not all of this misery comes from the direct effects of our sickness; some are caused by other people's reaction to them.
Some behavioral -i. e. neurological- symptoms and many aesthetic symptoms change the way people see us. Many will agree that our society isn't as good as it should be, and many patients are stigmatized and cast aside because of the way their diseases make them look.
Our skin is the first thing people see of us. Our face, our hands and arms, our legs, everything is covered by our skin. Therefore, skin conditions that change its appearance can have a very powerful -sometimes destructive- effect on our lives, especially if they're present since we are little children. When a boy or girl is feared or despised, the emotional scars this leaves will sometimes never go away, and influence their lives forever, shattering their self esteem and self confidence, and causing them to run away from social exposure. In some cases, when their skin condition is totally or partially caused by psychosomatic factors, the misery these symptoms cause can actually worsen them even more.
What is eczema?
Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a chronic skin rash or inflammation that covers up most of our skin and is mostly prevalent on children. It is one of the most common chronic skin disorders and it is estimated that around 10% to 20% of the world's population have or have had some form of eczema.
Although the most common manifestation of eczema is a reddish or pink rush over the skin that constantly itches, there are in fact other possible eruptions caused by this same condition, such as scales and crusts. Also, it is usual that the skin becomes damaged from constant scratching, causing bleeding lesions and shelling.
The causes of eczema are yet unknown. There are two major categories for these conditions: allergic eczema and irritant eczema. The difference lies in the sort of substance that causes the skin reaction. Allergic eczema is an immune response to a substance that isn't harmful itself, but gets in contact with the body and our immune system reacts as if it was a threat to our health. Irritant dermatitis is caused by direct contact with a substance that hurts overly sensitive skin due to a chemical reaction. Allergic eczema is caused by exposition to metals, enamels, hair dyes, cosmetic chemicals and other substances of the like, and is linked to other allergic conditions such as asthma. Among the chemicals that could cause irritant eczema reactions are water, soap and detergents.
Treatment for eczema doesn't always work and some cases are particularly difficult to fight, but doctors agree that the best known treatment for dermatitis is corticosteroids. The main function of these medications, that are also used to treat asthma, is to reduce the immune response of our bodies, thus soothing the reaction of our skin. Recurrence can also be prevented, by using emollient and removing contact with substances that cause these reactions.
Eczema and immune system
As the best known treatment for eczema is medication that lower the immune response, it appears to be common sense to think that an adequate immune function will decrease the incidence of eczema symptoms. Studies show that there is truth in this asumption. There is evidence that more children suffering from allergies live in environments that affect their immune function, but this evidence actually goes against some things that we are used to think and disinfectant commercials show us.
While many first world people are convinced that children should be shielded from all forms of bacteria and that they should grow in an environment as clean and sterile as possible in order to prevent diseases, the truth is that our immune system needs some practice to work properly. Children underexposed to bacteria actually develop immunity problems, like autoimmune conditions and allergies - such as eczema. Their immune system isn't sure of what could hurt your body, and therefore, doesn't know what to attack. Exposure to microbes actually tunes and strengthens this system and shows it what is dangerous.
It isn't casual that allergies are way more frequent in highly protected environments, while country and farm children are less likely to experience these conditions. Losing our dread to microbes can actually help our children be healthier; after all, we are naturally prepared to deal with some bacteria. The secret is to find good balance between exposure and protection.
Always seek for a dermatologist's advice who will identify your condition and will help you with the right treatment.
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