Eczema: the causes, the symptoms and how to treat it
everything you need to know about eczema.
Eczema is familiar, yet no matter how long you've had it, dealing with Eczema is never a walk in the park. Not only is it physically uncomfortable or even painful, but it's also emotionally distressing since often the symptoms can affect your appearance, and it can feel impossible to find relief.
If you suffer from Eczema, you know how it feels to go through an outbreak and find little to no solutions for the symptoms, and once they do resolve (if they do for a bit), you live in fear of your next outbreak.
Although we don't yet know what exactly causes Eczema, and there's no cure, we know a lot about managing it, treating the symptoms, and identifying triggers to help prevent future flares. Keep reading below for more insight from a dermatologist about what you need to know about Eczema, the symptoms and current treatments.
What is Eczema, and what causes it?
Eczema is a common itchy rash that occurs on the skin. Eczema can appear anywhere on the body; however, it typically occurs most commonly in skin folds on the extremities. There are seven different types of Eczema, and you can have several different kinds at once.
The seven different types of Eczema:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic Eczema
- Hand eczema
- Nummular Eczema
- Stasis dermatitis
Since Eczema technically represents a group of different skin rashes, the symptoms can vary with each other kind of inflammation and the person. in general, the symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Itchy skin (which can be severe)
- Red or brown/grey coloured patches
- Small red bumps on the skin
- Thick, cracked or scaly skin
- Skin that is raw and sensitive from frequent itching or scratching
People with Eczema sometimes experience flares (i.e. it comes and goes), and some people have it chronically.
What causes Eczema?
In general, we don't know the exact cause of Eczema yet. But it is thought to be associated with the immune system, genetics and also environmental factors. According to the National Eczema Association, most eczema cases can be explained by "a combination of genes and environmental triggers.
Changing seasons or exposure to irritants can also trigger symptoms. Eczema can worsen with the change in seasons and [with] skin irritants such as fragrances.
Common eczema triggers:
- Dry skin
- Changes in climate or weather patterns
- Certain foods or beverages
- Chemicals or irritants from household products
- Allergens like pet dander, dust mites, mould, pollen
Reduces skin dryness in conditions such as eczema.
How to treated Eczema
There is currently no cure for Eczema, but the symptoms can be treated or managed in various ways. One way to help prevent and treat flares is by identifying your triggers, which you can discuss with your doctor -- ideally a board-certified dermatologist who can help you identify triggers and proper treatment for your Eczema.
Use gentle skincare products and eliminate potential irritants.
"[Use] gentle skincare with emollients and avoid skin irritants such as fragrance-containing products," says Jagdeo.
Doctors can also prescribe you products to treat Eczema that you apply directly to the skin. Typically these are "topical medications known as anti-inflammatory steroids to soothe the skin," according to Jagdeo.
Immune modifying treatments
"Immune modifying treatments such as oral or injectable medications [can] help improve the skin by decreasing the immune-mediated inflammation that causes eczema," adds Jagdeo.
What about OTC products?
Over-the-counter creams and products marketed for Eczema can sometimes help. Still, you should always see a dermatologist first to help determine the correct treatment and effects for your specific situation. Board-certified dermatologists are experts in Eczema and skincare and can help recommend OTC treatments to improve your Eczema, along with prescription based recommendations as medically necessary.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.