Eczema-Free for Life

Eczema-Free for Life

by Adnan Nasir M.D., Priscilla Burgess

Paperback(First Edition)

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Rid yourself of eczema forever! Based on new research, this book has everything the millions of eczema sufferers need to know to free themselves from unbearable itching and unsightly rashes.

Eczema–Free For Life contains the latest medical information about the cause, symptoms, and treatments of eczema and is written both for adults with eczema and the parents of children with eczema. In addition to the most recent medical research, Dr. Nasir offers guidance for home care and ways to cope with the psychological impact of the disorder. None of the popular books about eczema currently on the market is written by a practicing dermatologist and none is based on up–to–date science. New research has conclusively demonstrated that eczema is the result of the abnormal development of some twenty genes responsible for controlling how the skin interacts with the environment. When the skin's barrier function fails, irritants pass through to underlying tissue and trigger the itchy rash that characterizes eczema. Dr. Nasir will explain new and more powerful treatments that are being developed based on these new discoveries as well as point out reliable holistic remedies that have worked for centuries.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060722241
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/18/2005
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 544,602
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

About the Author

Adnan Nasir, M.D., teaches dermatology at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and practices in Raleigh, NC. He is a noted clinician and researcher of immune diseases of the skin and has received numerous awards for his work, including the AMS Research Forum Award.

Priscilla Burgess is a journalist whose work has been published in national magazines.

Read an Excerpt

Eczema-Free for Life

By Nasir, Adnan


ISBN: 006072224X

Chapter One

Diagnosing Eczema

Eczema isn't like strep throat, which is easy to diagnose with a lab test and simple to cure with an antibiotic. There's no test to prove beyond a doubt that you have or don't have it. Instead, the diagnosis of eczema is based upon a careful search for a cluster of signs and symptoms. The itchy rash is the main symptom, but it's not the only one.

As soon as I enter the examining room, I'm looking for evidence. I analyze the signs I observe and the symptoms my patients report to see if they add up to eczema. Evidence can be found anywhere on the body, so, like me, your doctor might want to examine your whole body, even though you've come in because of a problem in a specific area. Signs of eczema can also be found in the eyes, lymph nodes, and other parts of the body, so don't be surprised if your doctor looks beyond your rash. The extent of the examination will depend upon how certain your doctor is of the diagnosis. Typical cases are easy to recognize, while atypical cases may require careful clinical evaluation.

To diagnose eczema, I ask the following questions:

  • Do you itch?
  • Do you now have a rash characteristic of eczema? (see pages 231–232)
  • Have you ever had the characteristic rash of eczema? If so, did your rash develop before you were two years old?
  • Has your skin been generally dry in the lastyear?
  • Has anyone in your immediate family had asthma, hay fever, or eczema?

If you answer "Yes" to two or more questions, you probably have eczema.

Skin Signs and Symptoms

While most people associate eczema with a red, itchy rash, there are other signs and symptoms, some of which are obvious even when there's no rash. The rash comes and goes, but evidence of eczema is always present.


Itch is the one symptom that must be present for a diagnosis of eczema. Itch drives patients to scratch, which triggers other symptoms commonly seen on the skin: inflammation, scaling, lichenification, scratch marks, and crust.


The redness of an eczema rash is actually inflammation. Scratching itchy skin damages cells. When the body perceives this damage, it sends defenses in the form of additional blood, immune cells, and other helper cells to speed healing. Besides turning red from increased blood flow, inflamed areas are warm to the touch and often swollen.

The degree of redness doesn't necessarily correspond with the degree of itching. For example, a bright red area may itch only slightly, while a light pink patch may be severely itchy. The brightness of the color may also depend upon complexion. In those with very light skin, any level of redness will be immediately obvious. For those with dark skin, the only clue to inflammation may be increased warmth of the skin.

Normally, the skin is a very efficient organ and requires little blood, about 2 tablespoons per minute. In the average adult, the skin is one-eighth total body weight, yet requires only one fiftieth of total heart output. This is because skin is usually metabolically inactive and the outer layers get some oxygen from direct contact with the atmosphere. With severe enough inflammation, blood flow to the skin can increase many-fold, and even deprive the body of needed oxygen and nutrients.

The skin of those with eczema reacts to scratching differently from that of those who don't have it. For example, if I write a word on a patient's back with a retracted ballpoint pen, a few minutes later the writing appears as a raised, dark red area with a subtle white halo. This reaction is found only in patients with eczema.

Occasionally, inflammation can cause your skin to hurt when touched. If it's affecting the hands, it can prevent fingers from bending and straightening properly. If there is widespread inflammation, you could feel ill. Severe inflammation is serious and should be treated immediately by your doctor.

Scale (Hyperkeratosis)

The eczema rash is not only itchy and red, it also often looks scaly. Eczema speeds up the process of shedding and replacing dead cells. This results in more dead cells on the surface of the skin than can be naturally brushed away. In some cases, dead cells adhere to one another instead of shedding, piling up into thick mounds that crack and flake off.

Eczema scale takes several forms:

  • It may be fine and white like powder. When rubbed, it balls up, leaving red skin underneath.
  • It may not be evident until the skin is stretched or bent, as in around the mouth or joints.
  • It may be cracked, giving the skin the appearance of a dried mud flat.
  • Sometimes thin, transparent sheets peel off like dried rubber cement.
  • Scale may be thin and crumbly around the eyes.
  • Scale on the palms and soles tends to be thick and rigid, often interfering with movement.
  • It may be thick and yellow and come off only in flakes or chips, I sometimes use this as a diagnostic clue, so don't be alarmed if your doctor scratches and picks at your skin while discouraging you from doing the same.

A person with eczema typically has dry skin, so if the skin isn't thoroughly moisturized, it's possible that scale will appear anywhere on the body regardless of itch or inflammation. Scaling typical of the eczema rash tends to develop where the skin is thin and sensitive, like the eyelids, neck, nipples, and the inside of elbows and backs of knees.


Skin that is constantly scratched or rubbed will eventually look thicker, darker, and rougher than normal skin. Thickened, or lichenified, areas range in size from a pinhead to a dinner plate, depending on the location and how often and how hard the area has been scratched. Like calluses, lichenification is an attempt by the body to protect itself. Lichenification takes weeks or months to develop; however, if the skin is left alone, it will eventually return to its normal condition ... Continues...

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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have eczema, and I am so glad I found this book! It covers a lot of ground, much more than I have seen in other sources (online, other books, even my doctor's office). This book is not about fads, or diets, or hype. The source is authoritative, up to date, and does a great job of separating eczema fact from eczema fiction. This book has it all. From the discussion of itch and rash, to practical tips on making the home environment friendly to my skin, to easy-to-understand advice on home remedies and prescription remedies; it's all there. Many of the suggestions I could put to use right away. I definitely recommend it to anyone with eczema.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has everything you need to know about eczema, its causes, its treatments, what to do, what to avoid. It goes into detail in the science behind eczema but doesn't shy away from alternative treatments. It talks about what works and what isn't backed up by solid resarch. If you have eczema, this belongs on your shelf. I strongly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. It is well written and easy to read. A lot of what's written about causes and treatments for eczema is anecdotal and unscientific. This book goes to great length to present as much evidence-based, practical tips on managing eczema as possible in plain language. There is an extensive background on the causes of eczema and the role of the immune system and nervous system in itching. It's fascinating because it really lets you know what's driving the itch and the rash. Knowing what drives itch and rash is the key to treating the condition, and for that, there are dozens of practical tips on treating eczema, from how to set up your home and bedroom, to how to treat yourself during flares and in between flares. There is a special section for children which is quite thorough. The role of diet, the environment, and the psychological aspects of eczema are all given due consideration. An extended section on scientifically proven treatments goes a long way to showing what works, and debunking what doesn't. I think it's a must have for anyone with eczema or their loved one. I highly recommend it.
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