Everything You Need to Know About Eczema

Redness, itchy spots, and even inflamed patches on your skin are both terribly uncomfortable and embarrassing. But what can you do when simple skincare isn’t enough to keep your skin looking its best? You might be dealing with a lifelong condition like eczema.

Eczema is a common skin condition that can cause inflammation, redness, and other painful, visible symptoms. But fortunately, eczema is manageable. And with knowledge of the condition, it can be treated and flare-ups can be soothed.

Whether you’re living with eczema or want to know more about diagnosing, treating, and managing this condition, here are the facts about eczema.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a health condition that causes skin to grow red, itchy, and inflamed. But eczema isn’t a single condition – it’s actually a group of skin conditions that share symptoms.

There are a few different types of eczema, including:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Dyshidrotic eczema
  • Nummular eczema
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Stasis dermatitis

And eczema is actually a very common condition. More than 30 million people in the U.S. are living with some type of eczema. Fortunately, most cases are able to be managed or controlled.

What Causes Eczema?

The cause of eczema is unknown. It’s believed that eczema occurs as the result of both genetic and environmental factors. But, most importantly, eczema isn’t contagious. You can’t “catch” this condition from others. 

Eczema becomes obvious or present on the skin when an irritant or allergen of some kind “switches on” the body’s immune system. Skin cells start behaving abnormally, and this triggers symptoms to appear.

Because eczema can come and go, bouts of symptoms are called flare-ups. The condition is always present, but it can disappear and reappear as triggers or allergens change.

Common Eczema Symptoms

Eczema symptoms typically appear during flare-ups. Those who live with eczema may experience some or all of these common symptoms:

  • Dry skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Itching (mild, moderate, or severe)
  • Dark-colored patches on the skin
  • Rough, leathery, or scaly patches on the skin
  • Oozing or crusting of inflamed skin
  • Swelling

These symptoms can appear differently in different people. Eczema doesn’t affect everyone in the same ways – so if you’re experiencing other symptoms, it’s important to talk with your doctor or dermatologist.

Treating Eczema

There is currently no cure for eczema. However, the condition can be managed with different treatment options. Most of these treatments work to heal the skin and prevent flare-ups from happening, which can reduce your skin woes. 

To start treating eczema, it’s important to first see a doctor and get a diagnosis. If what you’re dealing with is truly eczema, your doctor will suggest a treatment plan that can help target your specific symptoms, triggers, and other concerns.

There are two common treatment types: medical and alternative.

Medical Treatment Options

Medications and medicated products are available to help soothe the symptoms of eczema. There are a number of different medications that work to target some of the aspects that directly affect eczema sufferers. For example, there are medications that can target inflammation, the body’s immune system, or even the discomfort of changes happening to your skin.

Medical treatments typically prescribed by doctors include:

  • Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments, which are anti-inflammatory.
  • Systemic corticosteroids, which are either injected or taken by mouth to reduce inflammation.
  • Antihistamines, which can reduce the risk of scratching (especially at night).
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors, which are medications that suppress the immune system to soothe inflammation and prevent flare-ups.
  • Phototherapy, which exposes skin to UVA or UVB light.

Alternative Treatment Options

Alternative treatment options, which are also called home care treatments, can help you soothe your eczema symptoms and flares without medication. 

These treatment options include:

  • Take a lukewarm bath.
  • Apply moisturizer both daily and as needed.
  • Wear cotton or other soft fabrics to avoid rough, scratching materials.
  • Use mild soaps when washing skin.
  • Air-dry or gently pat dry skin.
  • Avoid or eliminate known eczema triggers.
  • Use a humidifier.

Ultimately, although eczema can be a lifelong condition to deal with, there are ways to manage symptoms. And with the right knowledge, you can better help your skin and your overall wellness. 

Make sure to talk with your doctor if you think you might be experiencing the symptoms of eczema. Getting a diagnosis is the first step in treating the condition and its symptoms. And the right treatments may be able to reduce flare-ups, help control symptoms, and make you feel better overall.

pumatokoh / Shutterstock

Oct 9, 2019