The skin is body’s largest organ. It is the one mandated with keeping internal organs from harm and thermally regulated. For such reasons, a number of conditions can develop on the skin. Some are relatively harmless while others can get quite dangerous.
Eczema and herpes are good examples of conditions that affect the skin. Both are relatively harmless and can in fact be treated without much difficulty. These two conditions can occur at the same time, but in rare occasions. The resulting condition is identified as Eczema Herpeticum. It is quite dangerous, uncomfortable and painful. This article discusses; what is Eczema Herpeticum: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What is eczema herpeticum and what causes it?
What is eczema herpeticum exactly? To understand what eczema herpeticum is and what causes it, we need to briefly discuss eczema and herpes separately;
This is a skin condition characterized by red, itchy and inflamed skin patches. There are about 10 different types of eczema, but atopic eczema is most common. Atopic eczema occurs more on individuals with histories of hay fever and asthma.
Experts are yet to agree on what exactly causes eczema. It is however known that sources of skin trauma such as injuries, burns, allergens, irritants do trigger flares. Eczema rarely calls for complicated medical treatment, especially if not infected. Eczema is not contagious.
Herpes is a viral disease, caused by herpes simplex virus. It is characterized by itchy skin sores or blisters. They are many types of herpes simplex virus, but type 1 and type 2 are most common. The former is responsible for oral herpes while the latter causes genital herpes.
Like all viral diseases, herpes remains in the body eternally after catching the virus. It stays dormant for the better part of its lifetime but keeps launching attacks when triggered. Herpes is highly contagious through skin to skin contact.
How do you get eczema herpeticum? If it happens that a patient with eczema comes into contact with active herpes simplex virus, they may develop eczema herpeticum.
Eczema herpeticum symptoms and pictures
Images and pictures will help you identify eczema herpeticum and differentiate it from other related skin conditions. It is however very necessary to first learn about eczema herpeticum symptoms.
Symptoms will appear on;
- Face (mostly near mouth)
- Any skin region with a history of atopic eczema
Most of the symptoms of eczema herpeticum revolve around changes or uniqueness in blisters that will form. The blisters usually are;
- Itchy, mostly painful
- Form in clusters or patches
- Appear symmetrical to each other
- Are usually red but sometimes black or purplish
- Ooze fluid or bleed
- Form sores and crusts with time
- Keep spreading in the following week or two
- Swollen lymph nodes
- High fever
Symptoms and cases of eczema herpeticum are more common in children with atopic eczema or other skin conditions. Anyone can however develop the condition.
Eczema herpeticum diagnosis and treatment
Eczema herpeticum diagnosis can be done by comparing pictures and images. But due to the seriousness and potential danger associated with the condition, it is best that a doctor be the one to run a diagnosis. A dermatologist can identify eczema herpeticum through physical examination and symptoms. Some cases call for skin biopsy or other systematic viral and bacterial tests.
Eczema herpeticum treatment options;
Acyclovir and valacyclovir are the most common antiviral medications prescribed by dermatologists. Patients who can’t take oral tablets can get intravenous antivirals. They are meant to keep the herpes simplex virus from causing more infection. The medicines are prescribed for about 2 weeks.
They are not always necessary but can help ease the symptoms associated with eczema. Such include skin inflammation, irritation and redness. It is best that a doctor be consulted before using topical steroids for eczema herpeticum treatment.
Staphylococcus bacteria can infect eczema herpeticum sores, which can result in impetigo. After diagnosis, your doctor will decide if antibiotics are necessary. They are essential dyshidrotic eczema cure options but not always necessary.
Other treatment options such as use of UV rays can be considered but are not primary. You doctor will discuss some of them if necessary.
Eczema herpeticum complications and risks
Cases of eczema herpeticum are rare. Even rarer are cases of the infection leading to death. However, it can lead to a number of complications that are best avoided. They include;
- Organ failure (brain, liver, lungs, heart)
Getting treatment as soon as possible is the best way to avoid complications and risks associated with eczema herpeticum. This includes preventing from bacterial infections, which will only worsen the condition.
Eczema herpeticum prevention tips
When it comes to how to treat eczema herpeticum, prevention is of much importance. You will be preventing two different conditions at the same time. Here are some prevention tips that will help;
Understand the trigger factors
Both eczema and herpes mostly occur after being triggered. It is best that you get to understand the factors or activities that will encourage flares and consequently avoid them.
Early treatment forms a vital part of eczema herpeticum prevention. It prevents from potential need for complicated treatment options. This mostly goes to atopic eczema. You find that cases of eczema herpeticum are almost always reported on individuals with active atopic eczema.
Avoid contact with herpes virus
If you happen to be dealing with atopic eczema or any other type, best that you avoid any form of contact with herpes simplex virus. The virus is transferred through utensils, kissing, sexual intercourse, towels and such. Eczema in toddlers is very common. If you happen to have cold sores or genital herpes sores, avoid touching your child on the affected regions.
Try moisturizers and humidifiers
Moisturizers will keep your skin as hydrated as it needs to be. Eczema can only develop if the skin is dry enough to allow it. Wear a moisturizer after bath and apply a humidifier when indoors with the air conditioner on.
Consult your doctor
See your doctor if you have any reason to associate certain symptoms with eczema herpeticum. While treatment at home for eczema is often recommended, it is not advisable in the case of eczema herpeticum.
Treating eczema herpeticum at home
Eczema herpeticum should not entirely be treated at home. Antiviral medications are the best treatment options and are only available with a prescription. However, treatment at home can help fasten recovery and prevent recurrent attacks. Eczema herpeticum recurrent attacks are very rare.
Essential oils are natural moisturizers which will help keep the skin from drying and cracking. It is the dryness of the skin that forms cracks, which in turn give room for microbial entry. Coconut oil for eczema, for example, will not only keep the skin hydrated but will also discourage viral infections. Much the same can be said about lavender oil or olive oil.
Chamomile leaves or cream is said to be very effective when it comes to how to get rid of eczema on legs or nummular eczema. Such a remedy can be used to keep the affected regions free from herpes simplex virus.
Other home remedies that may help include; witch hazel, licorice, St. John’s wort and aloe Vera. Tea tree oil is touted as an effective anti-viral remedy too.
Another eczema herpeticum treatment approach at home involves taking baths with medicated soaps and mild cleansers. Medicated soaps are meant to keep off bacteria. Mild cleansers are meant to keep the skin clean without irritating it.
Even after eczema herpeticum has cleared off completely, the affected skin remains delicate for quite a while. It is therefore important that any form of trauma on the skin be avoided.
Eczema herpeticum summary
- The condition is occurs when atopic eczema is infected by herpes simplex virus.
- Symptoms include red, itchy, painful and blistered skin patches
- the symptoms show up 7-10 days after contact
- with proper treatment, lesions will disappear within 2 weeks
- if not treated, eczema herpeticum can lead to blindness, organ failure and scarring
- Eczema herpeticum is mostly treated with antiviral medications. Your doctor will discuss other treatment options if necessary
- Early treatment is very important. It not only helps avoid complications but also ensures that recovery is achieved in the shortest time possible
- Avoid treatment at home before consulting your doctor. If done wrongly, it may end up causing more irritation or even spreading the infection.