Although layman talk of "itching" when thinking about eczema, medical professionals refer to the term "nodular prurigo" to describe this source of discomfort. Prurigo specifically refers to the appearance of the skin after it has been scratched, in response to the itch for a prolonged period. Nodular prurigo comprises of raised bumps on the skin which are directly linked with the scratching. If the patient is able to resist the urge to scratch then this will cause the symptoms to settle down down. Although stopping scratching sounds easy, it is extremely difficult, trust me! I can't help but scratch, even if it causes my skin to bleed I have to carry on, and I have a lot of self control!
There is no known cause of this type of eczema, and experts are at loggerheads as to what makes the skin behave in the way it does. However, the itching prompts scratching, which augments and prolongs the symptoms to make for a drawn out period of prolonged irritation. There have also been links drawn between stress and increased scratching.
Most of the patients suffering from this form of eczema tend to be atopic, which means their bodies react in an irregular way to allergens in the environment, ultimately causing this reaction. The condition can lead to symptoms such as severe itching which can disrupt sleep and daily life. The scratching becomes a habit as the only direct form of relief, yet makes this itching worse over the longer term, creating a vicious circle for the patient.
Patients suffering from nodular eczema usually have patches of skin covered in hard lumps which can be the source of endless discomfort. The rough surface is usually darker than other areas of the skin, and may contain numerous scratches or scabs caused by scratching. Most commonly, sufferers find these symptoms present on their arms and on their legs, although it is not uncommon for the condition to affect any part of the body.
The first prong of attack is usually a steroid based gel or cream. In severe cases a bandage can be applied over the cream increasing the effectiveness and also preventing scratching, just make sure you lock up all the knitting needles! This treatment can be soothing after a while, and can work toward reducing inflammation and treating the condition. As a first step, this is one of the most effective at reducing the symptoms of the condition.
One of the most successful treatments is known as UV phototherapy. This involves subjecting the areas in question to UV light by way of a 'light box'. This is usually a procedure carried out in the doctor's office, although you may be prescribed a light box for home use from your doctor. If you are at all unsure about this treatment, it is essential that you discuss your options with your doctor to determine the best options for you. Of course, the light box does come with its own side effects, so it's important you learn how to use it properly and safely to avoid damaging your skin.
If a wide area of the skin is affected then you may want to try one of the medical UV booths, think tanning bed and you won't be far wrong. I have tried this treatment, and quite frankly it scared the hell out of me! I was in my early teens when I tried it, and it did manage to clear up my symptoms while I was having the treatment, however as soon as I stopped they returned. Plus thanks to this treatment whenever I went outside I had to cover up, so personally it's not for me!