Itch – The primary symptom of eczema is itch. Since itching is a symptom shared by almost all kinds of skin condition, it is classified as an essential symptom and not a unique symptom when diagnosing eczema.

Interestingly, medical science still is not fully certain what truly causes itching; however, nerve fibers located within the skin convey itch sensation information to the brain and the spinal cord.  Scientists used to erroneously think that pain sensations function the same way as itch sensations since pain sensations also use the nerve fibers for itch. This is now considered a fallacy.

Scratching causes neural signals to go through the pain fibers and this prevents the itch sensation from being felt.

Redness – The redness of the skin often implies enhanced blood flow. A vast spider’s web of very small blood vessels called capillaries are located even in the innermost skin layers that show smaller vessels   right in the skin’s superficial layers. Dead skin cells reside in the surface of the skin as well as in the topmost layer of the skin. Eczema can be caused by certain factors but one important thing to remember is that flare ups signify bacterial infection. When bacterial infection seeps into the deepest layers the affected skin usually develops more heat and redness in the skin tissue.

Thickening – The areas of the skin that have been frequently inflamed for long periods of time can develop into much thicker skin. The reason for this is that the thicker skin serves to protect the skin from the potential damage of scratching.

Fissures – The flexures or front ankles, joints behind the knees and the elbow are the body parts usually affected by eczema. Fissures may develop in the skin because the additional skin thickness prevents the skin from becoming flexible.

Blisters – A study shows that during eczema the skin especially the upper layers start to become less adhesive. This can lead to scaling of the skin and enables bacteria to easily penetrate the skin’s deepest layers. Less skin adhesion also makes it easy for fluids in the skin tissue to ooze out which can turn into sets of blisters.  Depending on the type of eczema you have or because of skin infection small or large skin blisters can develop.  The blisters can be filled with fluid as well as pus. This kind of blister occurs during skin infection.

Crusts – When the oozing fluid from the inflamed skin dries out it can become a crusty deposit.  Crusts often develop from skin infection like impetigo where the infected crust usually sports a golden color. Children of primary school age are more often affected than others by impetigo since this condition can be transmitted by touching. Treating impetigo does not necessarily mean treating the eczema symptoms. So there are separate modes of treatment for impetigo and eczema.

Grades of eczema

Eczema is measured depending on the rate of activity and how long a person has it.

  • Acute eczema – Acute eczema means that a part of your body has flared up just recently. The skin would look red and have blisters, crusts or oozing fluid.
  • Chronic eczema – When an area of the skin has been having eczema for quite a long while, it may become cracked, thick, scaly and dry.
  • Infection – As long as you have eczema, your skin will always be prone to infections

In classifying the different types of eczema, you can combine the rate of severity (infected, chronic or acute) to all the eczema types (doscoid, seborrhoeic or atopic among others) and develop an effective eczema classification system.

Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.