Eczema, pronounced “eck-zeh-ma” is a chronic skin condition. The medical word for it is: “atopic dermatitis.” If you have eczema, your skin is likely to feel itchy, red, rough, dry, scaly, and sometimes, it may feel bumpy. It’s not contagious, so others can’t catch it from you.
What causes eczema?
There is no known cause for eczema, but many medical experts believe that a person is more likely to develop eczema if a family member has it or if they have a problem with their immune system (the bodies’ defense against disease). If one or both of your parents have eczema, asthma, hay fever, or another allergic condition, you’re at risk for having symptoms, but your symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Who gets eczema?
Eczema is a common skin condition that can affect anyone, at any age. It most often appears during the first 5 years of life, but it can also start during the teen years or even when you’re an adult.
What are the symptoms of eczema?
Symptoms of eczema include:
- Itchy skin–it can be mild to intense and is often worse at night
- Areas of dry, red, scaly or flaky skin
- Patches of darker and thicker skin–caused from scratching or rubbing
- Small bumps on the face, upper arms, and thighs
- Bleeding or crusting from scratched or infected areas
Is there a test for eczema?
Unfortunately there’s no test for eczema. The only way to diagnose eczema is by having your health care provider or dermatologist (skin specialist) look at your skin and ask you questions about you and your family’s medical history.
How is eczema treated?
While there is no cure for eczema, there are many treatments to help manage the symptoms. Since dry skin leads to itchiness and inflammation, the goal of treatment is to find the best cream or ointment that will keep your skin moisturized (not dry) and reduce inflammation.
Treatments for eczema symptoms include:
- Moisturizing lotions and creams to keep skin moist
- Antihistamine medicine to help relieve itchy skin
- Prescription creams that contain steroid medicine to lessen inflammation
- Wet compresses to soothe and hydrate skin
- UV (ultraviolet) light therapy (also known as phototherapy)
Although eczema can be uncomfortable, there are things you can do to help your skin feel better.
Will my eczema ever go away?
Most young children who have eczema get better by the time they go to school. Some people may actually outgrow their symptoms during the adult years, but others may have it for the rest of their lives. There’s no way to tell if your eczema will go away completely, but it’s very possible that your symptoms may lessen as you get older. You may have occasional “flare-ups” (times when your skin is particularly sensitive and reacts to things in the environment).
Is there anything I can do to lessen the chance of flare-ups?
Yes. Besides following the treatment plan that your health care provider or dermatologist gives you, you can avoid “triggers” or irritants that make your symptoms worse.
|Things that may cause a flare-up:||What you can do:|
|Too much bathing, showering, or swimming||Limit your time in the water. Pat your skin dry and apply moisturizing lotion.|
|Sweating too much||Wear appropriate clothing for the weather and avoid getting overheated.|
|Sudden temperature changes, humidity||Avoid being outside during extreme weather conditions.|
|Harsh soaps, cosmetics, perfume||Use mild soap and hypoallergenic makeup and avoid perfume scented products.|
|Wool or man-made fabrics (polyester)||Avoid wearing clothing that irritates your skin. Stick with fabrics such as cotton.|
|Cleaning products||Use mild chemical-free cleaning products. Wear gloves when using strong cleaning products.|
If your symptoms don’t get better with treatment and the above suggestions, your health care provider might do allergy testing to see if something else is causing your eczema such as asthma or seasonal allergies. Some people with eczema have allergies to things such as dust, pollen and pets.