Red, Itchy, Sensitive Skin Is Common with Eczema
Most eczema breakouts are extremely itchy, especially at night. Unfortunately, scratching can aggravate eczema and cause your skin to crack and bleed.
Patches of Dry, Sensitive Skin
Eczema typically appears as patches of red to brownish-gray skin. Breakouts are common on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, upper chest, neck, eyelids, or inside the bend of the knees and elbows.
Red, Inflamed Skin
Red, swollen skin is often a hallmark of this skin condition. In some cases, small, raised bumps will form as well. These blisters tend to ooze or crust over when scratched.
How do I know if I'm at risk for eczema?
Eczema Often Runs in Families
The primary risk factor for developing eczema is a personal or family history of the condition. Certain genes cause overly sensitive skin or an overactive immune system, making breakouts more likely. In addition, having relatives with asthma or seasonal allergies may also increase your risk for eczema.
So what actually causes eczema?
The Exact Causes of the Condition Are Unknown
Eczema Is Not Fully Understood
Researchers believe that a combination of genetic factors and an external trigger can cause eczema. Many patients with the condition tend to have an overactive immune system, which produces excessive inflammation.
Eczema Is Not Contagious
You cannot catch eczema from coming into contact with someone who has it.
Eczema Is Not an Allergic Reaction
While many children who have eczema also have food allergies, this condition is not the result of an allergic reaction to particular foods. However, certain substances can trigger flare-ups or make an existing flare-up worse.
Is there any way to avoid getting eczema?
"Eczema is very common. And in many cases, it's also manageable. In fact, over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema." National Eczema Association
While You Cannot Prevent Eczema, You Can Manage the Condition
Identifying substances that trigger your eczema is a good way to prevent flare-ups. Common triggers include stress, wool, synthetic fabrics, soap, heat, cold climates, and dry skin.
Keep Skin Moisturized
When your skin is dry, you are more likely to develop flare-ups. There are a variety of creams, lotions, and ointments that can seal in moisture and minimize skin inflammation. Petroleum jelly works well for infants with eczema.
Limit Baths and Showers
Long showers or baths, especially in hot water, can irritate your skin and cause breakouts. Limiting your baths and showers to 10 to 15 minutes and lowering the temperature of the water can help prevent eczema.
What should I do if I suspect I have eczema?
A Simple Visual Exam Can Lead to a Diagnosis
If you are concerned you or your child may have eczema, make an appointment with a dermatologist. In most cases, a doctor can identify the condition during a simple visual exam. They will likely ask you about your medical history as well.
Typically, the signs of eczema are easily recognized by a trained dermatologist. Your dermatologist may also use patch testing to check for related skin conditions. These can help to rule out potential allergies.
How can I manage breakouts when they do happen?
Eczema Is a Manageable Condition with a Variety of Treatments
Your dermatologist may recommend an over-the-counter cream or prescribe a topical ointment. Common medications prescribed for eczema include topical steroids, calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), and PDE4 inhibitors.
For patients who do not see improvement with topical treatments, light therapy can offer relief from symptoms. Phototherapy involves controlled exposure to natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light.
Your doctor may prescribe an immunosuppressant if you have severe eczema. These medications control the immune system to limit inflammation in your system and reduce or eliminate symptoms.
Biologic drugs contain proteins derived from living tissues or cells and work by treating eczema at the immune system level. You can receive biologic drugs through the skin or an injection.
How serious is eczema?
Schedule an Appointment with a Dermatologist
The severity of eczema can range from a mild inconvenience to constant a disruption in your daily life. If you or your child's condition is resistant to home remedies, contact a dermatologist to find out how to effectively deal with your eczema.
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