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Eczema – All You Need to Know

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Eczema is a medical skin condition caused by inflammation. Known for its intense itch, eczema occurs when patches of skin become rough and irritated. People with eczema usually suffer from dry and sensitive skin. Since itching usually occurs first, itching is the defining and most common symptom of eczema. Once you start scratching the itch, your skin becomes even itchier creating an itch-scratch cycle. The irritated skin can appear as red and scaly areas, small and rough bumps, or thick and calloused patches.

Eczema rashes range from mild forms where skin is slightly dry and itchy to severe forms where skin can be extremely irritated and lead to cracked and oozing areas. These itchy, red rashes can appear all over the body but most commonly in the fold of the elbows or behind the knees. Atopic Dermatitis is the most common form of eczema; however, there are other types of eczema and many treatment options.

Affecting approximately 35 million Americans, eczema is a serious and chronic problem for many people. People are usually diagnosed with eczema when they are young children with 70% of cases occurring in children younger than five years old. Eczema first appears in babies or toddlers then become drier, flaky rashes in older children. Symptoms don’t usually start in adulthood with only about 2% to 3% of adults suffering from eczema in the United States. Eczema also becomes less severe as children grow into adults. Many infants and children will outgrow the medical skin condition by their tenth birthday; however, for some people, eczema does continue into adulthood and will continue to suffer from symptoms on-and-off through their entire lives. For about 60% of infants who suffer from eczema, their symptoms actually continue into adulthood.

Despite the abundance of people suffering from eczema, the exact cause of this skin condition is unknown. However, eczema is highly thought to be linked to an overactive response by the immune system causing the itching symptoms. Substances that cause allergy attacks such as pollen, pet dander, or food allergies can trigger flare-ups of this itchy rash. The allergens cause the immune system to overreact, which activates cells that produce inflammation in the skin. Furthermore, weather is a major player in rash breakouts. Feeling too hot or too cold or exposure to too much sun or dry weather may cause eczema outbreaks. Additionally, rough or coarse materials found in clothing or blankets can also increase the itching sensation. In general, those who suffer from eczema must be very cautious of what substances or materials interact with their skin. People with eczema have extremely sensitive skin and many household items, environmental elements, and other factors can easily worsen symptoms. Besides the immune systems response, another cause of eczema can be genetics. It is difficult to know exactly if eczema is passed down from generation to generation because a multitude of gene combinations can lead to eczema. Despite the complex nature of genetics, it is often shown that some forms of eczemas are hereditary because the skin condition tends to run in families and is commonly found in families with a history of previous skin conditions, allergies, hayfever or asthma. There are many causes that can lead to an eczema outbreak so those who suffer from this medical condition should exercise caution and remain alert when it comes to their skin.

Although facial eczema may resumble rosacea, these two-skin conditions are completely different. Rosacea is a disorder of the face that increases redness of the facial skin. There are four different types of Rosacea including type 1: a constant flushed or blushed appearance, type 2: the appearance of pimples and bumps, type 3: thickened red skin, and type 4: permanently bloodshot eyes. The major differences between eczema and rosacea are the affected areas, the symptoms, and when they begin. Eczema usually occurs on the arms, legs, hands, and feet where as rosacea usually occurs on the face. In addition, symptoms of eczema include patches of skin that are red, itchy, cracked, or scaly while symptoms of rosacea include reddened face, small acne-like bumps, and tender skin. Moreover, eczema usually begins during infancy into childhood and potentially progresses into adulthood; however, rosacea is rarely seen in children and usually only occurs in adulthood for people over the age of 30. Although eczema and rosacea can be confused for one another, the two skin conditions are dramatically different and require different treatments and care.

Although there is no cure for eczema, there are many treatment options and ways to reduce eczema symptoms. One way to reduce symptoms is to use less soap. Soap can dry out your skin so only use soap when it is necessary and on areas where it is needed. In addition, many soaps can be harsh and irritating on the skin so try to use mild, nonirritating soaps and detergents. Turning down the temperature of your showers can also help. Bathing in lukewarm water is actually better for your skin because hot water can be harsh and drying. Also, try to stay in the water for at least 10 to 20 minutes so your skin can soak up enough water from your shower. Skin cells can absorb water through their membranes and become hydrated. Another way to reduce the symptoms is to moisturize. Immediately after a shower, seal in the water by moisturizing. Also, keep small bottles of lotion or moisturizer handy to apply throughout the day, especially after you wash your hands. Lastly, if your skin is inflamed and itchy, you can use over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams to sooth your irritated skin. These are some easy, everyday tips to help deal and reduce eczema.

With summer in full swing, it’s especially important to remember to take care of your skin. The hot summer weather and sun can wreak havoc on your skin, especially for those suffering from eczema. The increased exposure to the sun and UV rays can increase moisture loss while the higher temperatures and humidity can result in the body’s inability to absorb sweat, which pulls more moisture from the skin as sweat dries. These summertime factors can trigger dry, itchy skin and eczema flare-ups. This summer, take care of your skin. Visit Mendelson Dermatology to learn more about ways you can reduce and manage the effects of eczema. With its easy and effective treatment options, Mendelson Dermatology offers a variety of solutions to your skin care problems and needs.