What is eczema?

A chronic condition, eczema affects the skin and causes it to become dry, itchy, and inflamed.  It is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Support and structure are provided to the skin by the dermis, or innermost layer. The underlying cause of eczema is thought to be an abnormal, overactive immune response that involves the epidermis as well as the dermis.

Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions. It’s estimated that eczema affects over 30 million people in the United States.

There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments that can reduce symptoms.

 

The different types of eczema

There are different types of eczema, which can be classified according to their symptoms, duration, or location on the body.

Atopic dermatitis: Also known as atopic eczema, this is the most common form of the condition, and is more likely to develop in people who have a family history of allergies. It usually starts in childhood, and symptoms include dry, itchy skin that may weep when scratched.

Contact dermatitis: This form of eczema develops when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen. It can be either allergic (caused by an allergic reaction to something like latex or nickel) or irritant (caused by something that dries out the skin, like detergent). Symptoms include red, itchy skin that may burn or sting.

Seborrheic dermatitis: This form of eczema is also known as seborrheic eczema or dandruff. It is a common condition that can affect anyone at any age, but is most commonly seen in infants and young children. It appears as patches of dry, scaly skin on the scalp, face, and other oily areas of the body.

 

What are the symptoms of eczema?

The most common symptom of eczema is itchiness. This can be so severe that it leads to sleep problems and can interfere with daily activities. 

Other symptoms include dry skin, redness, cracking, and burning. In severe cases, the skin may bleed or become infected. These symptoms can appear anywhere on the body, but they are most often found on the face, hands, feet, knees, and elbows.

If you are unsure if you may have eczema, see your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.

 

What causes eczema flare ups?

There are many different things that can trigger eczema to flare up. These triggers are different for everyone and can include:

-Dry skin

-Colds and flu

-Dirty or irritant substances coming into contact with the skin

-Exposure to certain chemicals, detergents or soaps

-Temperature changes

-Stress

Is eczema contagious?

Eczema is not contagious. You can’t give it to or get it from somebody just by touching skin. However, it does tend to run in families. It also is frequently accompanied by other conditions. For example, if you have eczema, you may also have hay fever or asthma.

How is eczema treated?

There is no definitive cure for eczema; but there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. The primary goal of treatment is to soothe and heal the skin, prevent flares and itching, and to prevent infection.

 

People with mild eczema may only need to use moisturizers and mild soap substitutes. Those with moderate to severe eczema are often prescribed medication such as corticosteroids to help control their symptoms. Unfortunately, corticosteroids can not only take a long time to take effect, they can also have long-term negative side effects.

 

Dermeleve® is a safe alternative to corticosteroids, and provides instant, long-lasting itch relief for people with moderate to severe eczema. Dermeleve is a cream that is applied directly to the skin, and it can be used as part of a treatment plan or on its own.

What triggers eczema?

Eczema flare-ups can be very uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. One of the most important things you can do is to prevent a flare-up is to avoid triggers that make your eczema worse.

Common triggers include:

-Dry skin: Use a gentle cleanser and moisturize regularly to keep your skin hydrated. 

-Irritants: Avoid harsh detergents, perfumes, and other irritants. Wear gloves when cleaning or using harsh chemicals.

*Be sure to count hand washing as an “irritant”! Too much scrubbing will strip away your natural oils and make eczema worse. Use lukewarm water and a mild soap when washing.

-Allergens: Identify and avoid any substances that trigger allergies or sensitivities. Dust mites are a common allergen for people with eczema, as is pollen, pet dander, or certain foods.

Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to figure out what your triggers are. A dermatologist can assist with this process by using skin testing to identify potential culprits. 

Once you know what your triggers are, take steps to avoid them as much as possible.

Lifestyle changes that can help with eczema

In addition to avoiding triggers, there are a few lifestyle changes that can help ease eczema symptoms:

-Stress: Eczema can be aggravated by stress. Find ways to relax and manage stress effectively. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises may help reduce stress levels. 

-Sleep: Getting enough rest is important for overall health, but it’s especially important if you have eczema. When you’re well-rested, your body is better able to fight off infection and heal quickly from flare-ups. Aim for 7–8 hours of sleep every night.

-Diet: Eating a healthy diet helps improve skin health from the inside out. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — and limit processed foods as much as possible.

 

Some common misconceptions about eczema

Eczema is contagious. This is false. Eczema is not contagious. You can’t “catch it” from someone else.

Eczema is caused by poor hygiene. This is also false. Eczema is not caused by poor hygiene. In fact, people with eczema often have very clean skin due to all the extra care they take to avoid triggering a flare-up.

Eczema is just dry skin. This is only partially true. Eczema can be caused by dry skin, but there are other factors involved as well. Eczema is actually a complex condition that has many different causes.

Eczema is just a “skin condition”. While it is true that eczema is primarily a skin condition, the effects of the condition can go beyond the skin. Eczema can have a direct effect on the quality of life and emotional well being of someone suffering from it. People with eczema often have trouble sleeping, feel anxious or depressed, and may even miss work or school due to their condition.

Eczema is curable. While there is no cure for eczema, it is possible to manage the condition and minimize its effects. With proper treatment and managing triggers, most people with eczema can live relatively normal lives.

Eczema only affects kids. This is false. While eczema is most common in children, it can affect people of all ages. In fact, 1 in 10 adults suffer from eczema.

Eczema will go away on its own eventually. This is also false. Eczema is a chronic condition that can last a lifetime. However, with proper treatment and management, the effects of eczema can be greatly minimized.