The skin is an extremely important organ of the body. The skin is more than just a lining covering the body. Skin is a vital organ, as important as the heart or lungs. Skin has many important and varied functions. Skin is the largest organ of the body. The surface area of an average adult is 1.8m2.
The functions of the skin are:
- A defence against bacteria and viruses.
- A protection against physical injury.
- A temperature insulator and regulator.
- A maintainer of homeostasis by preventing the loss of water and electrolytes.
- A producer of Vitamin D.
- A barrier against ultraviolent radiation.
- A protection against mechanical injury.
- As an enormous sensory organ.
- An enabler of grip and fine touch.
- A store of calories as fat in the subcutaneous skin.
- A displayer of appearance, providing cosmetic, psychosocial and display functions.
Diseases of the skin, can affect any of these functions. Those sufferers of skin diseases are affected in a way that is often underestimated by those who do not have skin problems. Skin diseases, such as eczema, have an effect on the funtioning of the entire individual in physical and psychological ways.
Eczema is a skin disease that has a variety of different causes and types. The most well known type of eczema is atopic eczema. Other types of eczema include: discoid eczema, irritant eczema, allergic eczema, seborrhoeic eczema, and varicose eczema.
Atopic eczema is very common in babies and children.The most common skin disease in childhood is atopic eczema. The majority of cases of childhood eczema improve and clear up by the time the children beocome adults. But, those who are affected by childhood eczema are prone to recurrences of eczema as adults. Adults suffer from recurrent atopic eczema, but contact eczema becomes more important in adults.
Eczema is an extremely common problem around the world. It has been estimated that in general practice in the UK, skin problems account for about 15% of all GP consultations. Eczema is thought to account for about one third of these. In other words about 5% of GP consultations are for eczema. In specialist practice, in hospital dermatology outpatients in the UK, eczema has been estimated to account for about 14% of the work.
Eczema has psychological effects as well as physical. Many surveys have studied the psychological effects of eczema.
It is extremely important for individuals with eczema to be able to discuss the psychological effects of their eczema.
There is a lot of confusing and conflicting advice given about eczema. Almost everyone is an expert on eczema. Why are there so many apparently contradictory opinions about eczema and the treatment of eczema. Here are some possible explanations for the conflicting advice about how to treat eczema:
What is effective in treating eczema for one person, may not work for another eczema patient.
There is no single "correct" effective treatment for eczema. Many different treatment approaches may result in the same positive outcome in treating eczema. All of these treatments and therapies may be equally worthwhile. Where it is possible, the eczema treatment should be ideally tailored to the needs and wishes of each and every eczema sufferer.
Application of creams and ointments, to the skin, is the most important part of eczema treatment.
But often, little effort is spent on instructing or advising the patient how to apply the creams or ointments. For example, how frequently and in what quantity the cream should be applied. If the sufferer does not apply the creams properly, then the treatment will not work and will be deemed a failure, even if the treatment is in fact correct.
Eczema naturally tends to improve and worsen over time, regardless of the treatment used. This may be due to avoidance or presence of triggers, but often it is not possible to explain why the severity of the ecezema has altered. It is human nature to look at what has been altered prior to any such change that occurred in the severity of the eczema. For example: a change of cream or diet, a lifestyle change, a new herbal remedy or a change in the environment or weather. The problem is that this can lead to false hope of a cure – and then in time disappointment as the eczema recurs or worsens.
Some specialists report that there are problems with the lack of training in dermatological problems of the medical and allied professions. Hopefully this will improve in time. In studies some patients have been unhappy with the treatment provided by their GP of family doctor. For example, it is thought that eczema may make up to 5% of GP’s workload, but it is possible to become a GP without any formal training in the management of skin disease. Fortunately, the vast majority of GP’s are very good at treating eczema, but this is because they have identified the need to spend the time and trouble to improve their knowledge of dematology.
There is often confusion about the difference in meaning between the words eczema and dermatitis. The word eczema is derived from the Greek word for boiling. Which is a good description of how the skin may feel to a sufferer of severe acute eczema. The word dermatitis means inflammation of the skin. The word dermatitis could therefore be used for other diseases that result in inflammation of the skin. The word dermatitis has often be taken to be mean that the skin condition was caused by an external factor. For example, contact dermatitis, and if this resulted from a chemical at work, then a claim for compensation may be involved. Some of the dfferent types of eczema are often known as dermatitis. For example seborrhoeic dermatitis or napkin dermatitis. It is preferable to use the word eczema to avoid confusion.