What is eczema?

Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition that involves irritated and itchy patches of skin. The exact cause of eczema is not known, but it is common in childhood but may not manifest until later years. If a child gets eczema during this time, dry and scaly patches appear on the skin. These patches often appear on the scalp, forehead, face, cheeks, folds of the arms, the back of the knees, and wrists. No matter where it appears, eczema is often very itchy. Scratching can also lead to a skin infection. It is important to remember however that eczema and its symptoms are different for everyone. Eczema tends to run in families and is commonly associated with other conditions, such as asthma and seasonal allergies. Some of the more common symptoms of eczema include:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Very bad itching
  • Dark colored patches of skin
  • Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin
  • Oozing or crusting
  • Areas of swelling

Are there other types of eczema?

Yes, there are several different types of eczema. Another form of eczema, dyshidrotic eczema (DE), causes small, deep-seated blisters, usually located on the hands and in between the fingers. It’s also possible to develop blisters on your feet. Whether on your hands, feet, of both, the blisters are often very itchy and painful. When the blisters clear (usually in 2 or 3 weeks), the skin tends to be red, dry, and cracked.

There is no cure for DE, so people can have flares. For many people, DE flares when they’re under a lot of stress, temperatures rise (such as in spring or summer), or their hands stay wet for long periods of time. DE flares range from mild to debilitating. A severe flare on your feet can make walking difficult. Having many blisters on your hands can make it difficult to work and perform everyday tasks like shampooing your hair and washing dishes.

What causes eczema to get better or worse?

There are everyday environmental factors that might make you or your child’s eczema flare up. Knowing your specific triggers can be useful in helping keep your eczema under control. Some common eczema triggers are:

  • Dry Skin.
    When your skin gets too dry, it can become scaly or rough, which can make your eczema flare up.
  • Irritants.
    Irritants can be found in any product that you use on your body or in your home such as hand and dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, bubble bath, body wash, surface cleaners, or disinfectants. Even some natural liquids, like the juice from fruits or vegetables, can irritate your skin when you touch them.
  • Allergens.
    Materials in the environment can cause you to have an allergic reaction and trigger an eczema flare-up. Some of the most common are seasonal pollen, dust mites, pet dander from cats and dogs, mold, and dandruff.
  • Stress.
    Emotional stress is known to be associated with eczema. Some people’s eczema symptoms get worse when they’re feeling “stressed.”
  • Hot and Cold Temperatures.
    Many people with eczema will become itchy when they sweat or get too hot. During the colder winter months, your skin may also get too dry, which can lead to irritation and an eczema flare up.

How can you treat your eczema?

Regardless of the type of eczema, it is important to learn how to best take care of your skin. Treatment and proper skincare can alleviate much of the discomfort associated with your eczema. In addition to proper skincare routines, there are many different prescription medications that can help get your eczema under control. If you or a loved one suffers from eczema, please call and schedule an appointment with our dermatology certified provider who will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to help get your eczema under control.