October Is National Eczema Awareness Month
What is Eczema?
Eczema is very common. In fact, over 31 million Americans have some form of eczema. Eczema can begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and it can range from mild to severe.
Eczema is not contagious. You can’t “catch it” from someone else. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers.
When an irritant or an allergen from outside or inside the body “switches on” the immune system, it produces inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the symptoms common to most types of eczema.
Types of Eczema
When people talk about eczema, they usually mean atopic dermatitis, its most common form. But eczema is actually the name for a group of skin conditions. They all cause red, itchy, and often cracked skin, but there are also different symptoms for each type.
This form of eczema starts with an intense itch. Once you give in to the urge to scratch, the telltale rashy (and even itchier) outbreak begins. When skin is very irritated, it can crack and bleed or ooze clear fluid.
This form of eczema is irritation or an allergic reaction to something that comes into contact with your skin, especially your hands or face. Skin can become thick, leathery, and cracked after repeated contact with your triggers.
This eczema is named after the term that means “disordered sweat.” It was once thought to be a problem with sweat glands. Signs appear only on the palms of the hands, the sides of the fingers, and sometimes the soles of the feet.
Eczema Flare Ups
What Causes an Eczema Flare-Up?
Triggers aren’t the same for everyone, and there may be a lag between the trigger and the symptoms. Sweat, fabrics (wool, polyester), pet dander, hot or cold weather, and harsh soaps are common triggers. Others include:
It could get scaly, tight, and easy to crack, which can lead to a flare-up.
Eczema Treatment Options
There is no cure for eczema, but many treatments are available and more are on the horizon. In fact, there are currently an unprecedented number of new treatments for eczema in development.
Depending on the type of eczema and severity, treatments include lifestyle changes, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies or prescription medication.
Eczema symptoms can be different for everyone. Not everyone will respond to a treatment in the same way, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with all of the options and consult with your dermatologist to find a treatment regimen that works for you or your child.
For most types of eczema, managing the condition and its symptoms comes down to these basics:
- Know your triggers
- Implement a regular bathing and moisturizing routine
- Use OTC and/or prescription medications consistently and as prescribed
- Watch for signs of skin infection — pus-filled bumps, pain, redness or heat