Table of Contents
1. Eczema Definition
2. Symptoms of Eczema
3. Causes & Triggers of Eczema
4. Eczema Diagnosis & Treatment
5. Tips & Home Remedies
What is Eczema
Eczema is a common condition and also known as atopic dermatitis. It causes itchy, red, dry and irritated skin that can last a lifetime. According to the National Eczema Association, more than 30 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with eczema. It is an inflammatory skin condition that results in flare-ups, itchy skin being the most common.
What are the different types of eczema? They include:
- Atopic dermatitis - most common type of eczema, often appears as a red rash.
- Contact Dermatitis - contacting something that irritates the skin or results in an allergic reaction.
- Dyshidrotic eczema - fingers, palms of hands, and feet are often affected. Signs are itchy, scaly patches, cracked and painful skin.
- Nummular eczema - common on the lower legs, usually caused by history of very dry skin. Signs include round, red, very itchy patches.
- Seborrheic dermatitis - also known as dandruff, it is an inflammatory skin condition mostly seen on the scalp.
- Static dermatitis - caused by poor blood circulation, mostly appears on lower legs.
Eczema can appear at any age, including newborns. Usually it starts during infancy or early childhood extending into adulthood. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and it is not contagious. However, it is chronic and it may last a lifetime. For adults, rashes around the eyes are common.
Those who are most affected include women, African Americans, and those with a family history of dermatitis or asthma. Depression, anxiety, stress, poor sleep habits and allergies seem to go hand-in-hand with eczema.
Symptoms of Eczema
Depending on a person's skin care routine, products being used, and areas of the skin affected, eczema symptoms may vary from person to person.
- Itch, may be worse at night
- Dry, sensitive skin
- Red patches especially on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, chest, inside of the elbows and knees; face and scalp of babies
- Crusty, scaly, thickening skin
- Swollen skin that is sensitive
- Bumps and rashes on the skin
Causes & Eczema Triggers
It's not known what the exact cause of eczema is. The skin acts as a barrier, protecting us from infections, germs, and injury, and keeping it hydrated. Studies show an overactive immune system may be a trigger and one cause of the symptoms.
When the skin's barrier is damaged in people with eczema, it can no longer act to protect the skin. As a result, bacteria, viruses, and irritants can damage the skin with inflammation, itching and dryness. The underlying cause of and triggers of symptoms could be a combination of the following:
- Immune system has a role in the cause of eczema. When it is overactive to small irritants or allergens, the result may be inflamed skin.Genetics has a link with eczema. It's been found that it tends to run in families.
Environmental factors such as air pollutants and dry air as in low humidity, can result in dry and itchy skin. Exposures to very hot or cold temperatures and wind are other causes. UV radiation exposure without protection is another.
Stress and anxiety can worsen and exacerbate eczema.
Irritants in daily use products such as soaps, cleansers, shampoos, dish soaps, detergents, skin care and cosmetics. Products with fragrance and other irritating ingredients can sensitize the skin, and eventually causing flare-up.
Food sensitivities can trigger eczema. Gluten, dairy, corn, chocolate, nuts and soy are common food allergens.
- Hormone levels can aggravate eczema symptoms.
Your immune system, when healthy, fights bad things trying to cause harm, and leaves good things alone. If you have an overactive immune system, it sends an army of cells called histamines to be released to get to the site of injury or infection and start the healing process, even for basic things like peanuts, which you would think should not be harmful.
If your immune system is overactive and releases unwarranted amounts of histamines, it can lead to inflammation and eczema flare up.
Eczema Diagnosis & Treatment
Your doctor will take a through medical history as to family with dermatitis, allergies, or asthma. Also, by examining your skin, it's possible for your healthcare provider to diagnose eczema.
A patch test helps the doctor determine what the cause of the skin symptoms may be. This is done by placing small amounts of allergens on the skin and watching for a response. A skin biopsy may also be done for diagnosis for more severe skin infections conditions.
Since eczema is a chronic condition, many factors are considered for treatment. Since there is no permanent cure for eczema, the goal is to help prevent or reduce itching.
Prescription medications your doctor may provide for treatment include:
- Antihistamines to ease itching. These are taken by mouth. As in all drugs, antihistamines have side effects.
- Systemic corticosteroids to help with inflammation and itching. Long term use is not recommended since there may be serious side effects.
- Topical steroid creams help with inflammation, itching and swelling. They come in various strengths.
- Antibiotics are prescribed to take by mouth if bacterial infections are present. This usually happens with scratching the affected area.
Tips & Home Remedies for Eczema
The following tips may help prevent or manage flare-ups of eczema:
- Bleach bath is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. A 1/2 cup of household bleach (not concentrated) added to a 40-gallon bathtub filled with warm water may help with decreasing bacterial infections.
- Oatmeal baths - The National Eczema Association recommends soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath or the topical application of oatmeal to help soothe itching. You can purchase ready made, colloidal oatmeal and sprinkle it in your bathtub as it fills with water, or you can make your own by finely grinding oat groats and adding them to lukewarm water. Soak for at least 15 minutes.
- Determining triggers and avoiding them is key to managing eczema. Take a close inventory of when the reactions occur and what you were doing prior to it. Triggers could include stress, soaps, detergents, dust, pollen.
- Daily used products are also important and may include irritants. Always use gentle soaps, cleansers and moisturizers free of fragrance and other irritating ingredients.
- Wash & dry carefully since you have sensitive skin. Only use warm water, not hot, and dry gently by patting your skin with a soft towel. Apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to help lock in moisture.
- Probiotics have been suggested in some studies to help reduce skin inflammation, help support the skin barrier and therefore, eczema symptoms.
- An Anti-inflammatory diet should be the focus of managing eczema. Foods to avoid include: artificial colors and flavors, chocolate, strawberries, spinach, and soy sauce. Do eat whole foods such as brown rice, chicken/turkey breast, oily fish like salmon, legumes like dried beans, nuts and seeds, along with oats.
Takeaways and Coping with Eczema
Since eczema has no cure, it's important to take charge and get into self-help for managing it. Research and get knowledgable on what treatment options are offered and what others with similar challenges of eczema have experienced.
As you learn more about eczema, you'll also know when to seek medical help if you're having trouble managing eczema. There are treatment options and home remedies available. Finding the right ones for you can help prevent complications.
Recommended Products for Eczema
What you put on your skin can make a major impact towards skin flare-up. Cleure products are formulated for sensitive skin and recommended by dermatologists.
All of our products are free of fragrance, and other common irritants recommended by dermatologists to avoid. Focusing on your daily skin care routine with mild products free of common irritants will help. In time, with what you do at home with care of your skin and following your doctor's recommendations, you can help ease and manage symptoms of eczema.