Eczema is a frustrating condition to deal with thanks to its comparatively nebulous nature. The word is actually used to refer to a variety of inflammatory skin conditions that each manifest for different reasons. That makes pinning down any particular cause a bit more difficult than usual unless there is an obvious source of the problem. Some forms of eczema also just seem to happen without anything to trigger them at all. Scientists have been trying to pin down the potential source of these problems for years and may have taken a few steps toward that with some recently released research. The research appears to indicate that, like acne, eczema can be triggered by particular strains of bacteria being on the skin. This offers further insight into the nature of some kinds of eczema as well as offering further potential avenues to investigate for the treatment of the condition. To better understand all of this, we’re going to take a closer look at eczema and what this new research has discovered.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema, simply put, is a family of conditions that cause inflammation of the skin. The conditions are also referred to as “dermatitis”. Redness, itchiness, rashes, blisters, and other manifestations of the conditions all occur. The exact symptoms tend to vary depending on the severity of the reaction and what causes the reaction in the first place. For instance, the reaction most people get coming in contact with poison ivy or oak is technically a form of eczema. It is defined as “contact dermatitis” because it comes from direct contact with an irritating substance that causes the problem. Most topical allergies manifest through contact dermatitis. Other forms exist such as xerotic eczema, which is skin drying out so much it causes eczema and atopic dermatitis which seems to have no clear cause beyond it running in families. There are other kinds as well. The key to understanding the condition is to simply remember it is a family of conditions instead and that research to investigate one is not necessarily valid for another.
What researchers were investigating is why atopic dermatitis surfaces within families by studying children with it. The research ended up leading them into examining the bacteria that called the children’s skin home. It is important to note that humans all have a microbiome particular to their bodies. Your skin provides a home for benign bacteria that help your skin function and in turn, they help to drive out any unwelcome bacteria as best they can. They can’t drive out everything though. Sometimes a particular strain of invading bacteria is too resilient and can build up on the skin. This may actually be the key to some instances of atopic dermatitis. The researchers noticed a higher concentration of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in cultures derived from the skin of children with atopic dermatitis. The unfortunate news is that this is only the beginning of the research as they still need to determine the relationship between the bacteria and eczema. Figuring that out may ultimately open the way to better forms of treatment for atopic dermatitis.
Regardless of the causes, eczema needs to be managed so that it has a proper chance to heal. The severity of the flare up will generally determine the best course of treatment. Most instances will simply require over-the-counter options such as an anti-itch cream and a moisturizer to help soothe the skin and keep it healthy and resilient. Moderate to severe flare ups require corticosteroid creams. These will generally be enough to manage most flare ups, but there are exceptions. Particularly resistant and severe flare ups will require specialized treatments that can include injections or regular internal doses of medications. The good news is that this should get the condition under control and careful coordination with your doctor or dermatologist can help you figure out the best way to manage the condition until it goes away or how to adjust your lifestyle to make management of a chronic form of eczema easier.
Thus far the research linking so-called “bad bacteria” and eczema largely applies to atopic eczema. The current state of the research offers potential future insights, but has no immediate benefits to those of us who aren’t researchers. It is good to know there is continual progress in figuring out how to properly treat such a frustrating condition though. In the future, this knowledge may lead to new forms of treatment that allows us to rid ourselves of the condition. All we can do for now is work with our doctors to control the condition so that it doesn’t control our lives.