Monday, April 6, 2009

Medical Monday: Eczema

It's that time again: Medical Monday! I blog each Monday about a different condition Connor has and then post a link to it on the side bar as I go. This way people can get a better idea of what Connor deals with on a daily basis and his family and friends can understand what I'm saying when I call and spout ridiculously long medical terms.

DISCLAIMER: I would like to emphasize for those people who stumble upon this blog that I'm not a doctor, and I have no medical experience other than the approximately 900 doctor's appointments I've been to in the past two years. I just know about these things in relation to how they apply to Connor and not anyone else's child, so if you want accurate info on this sort of thing, please please please ask your doctor or go to the medical library instead of looking it up on the Internet. The library is your friend.

Today we're going to talk about eczema.

Eczema is one of the few rather common things that Connor has. He doesn't even have the really rare variety or anything, which is sort of a relief. So what is eczema, anyway?

In a three word explanation: It's a rash. A red, bumpy, itchy rash that can cause cracked, weepy, bleeding skin and is not a whole lot of fun. There are a number of types of eczema and related skin conditions, but the one Connor has is the most common. It's called atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that has some hereditary factors. In Connor's case, he has members on both sides of the family that have issues with a variety of skin conditions, and though neither Jer nor I have any issues with our skin, Connor is another story. For the first six months after he was born, I had to use unscented shampoo, creme rinse, lotion, and deodorant on myself or he would break out in a rash just from skin-to-skin contact. I had to wash my house with vinegar-- just being in the room with bleach would make him breakout. I still use unscented laundry detergent on all of his clothing, though he has improved to the point where I can use scented bath products again, thank goodness, and can even use them on Connor if they're gentle.

Connor's rash can be triggered by more than just contact with scents and chemicals. It can also appear when it gets cold or really hot outside, when the seasons change, when he's under stress, or when we travel. He tends to break out in it on the back of his knees, inside his elbows, under his armpits, and on his face-- especially behind his ears. He'll go for long periods with his skin being completely clear, and then all of the sudden will break out again.

So how does having eczema affect Connor? Well, there's a 50-80% correlation between having eczema and developing asthma. Since there is a history of asthma on both sides of the family (though it skipped Jer and I once again) we have to make sure to keep a close eye on Connor. He doesn't show any signs of it thus far, but he could still develop it as he grows up. Connor's eczema is also obviously uncomfortable when it flares up-- it's red and itchy and irritating. Other than infection if he scratches himself too much (which, due to his motor skills, is rather unlikely) it isn't otherwise a threat to his health.

How do the doctor's treat Connor's eczema? Well, we slather the kid in lotion on a fairly regular basis-- especially when it looks like he's going to have a flair up. Holding him then becomes rather like trying to corral a greased pig, so you have to be careful, but it all soaks in pretty quickly. If his flair ups get really bad, we have steroids we can put on his skin, but thankfully we haven't had to pull those out in over a year.

What's the prognosis for Connor's eczema? It has improved immensely since he was born; he seems to have built up an immunity to many of the things that triggered it before. He still has mild break outs when he's stressed, when someone who holds him has on particularly strong perfume or lotion or is a smoker, or when we travel, but we usually have a long break of smooth, happy skin in between those flair ups. Since he's improved so much already, it's likely that he'll continue to improve, though he may never be entirely rid of the issue and it may flair up again at adolescence.

Here's some resources about Connor's type of eczema:


1 comment:

Julia O'C said...

Poor little guy. I had a boyfriend with eczema and it made him miserable. I can't imagine being itchy and not being able to scratch it, either. Outbreaks must be miserable for everyone in your house.

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