Did you know that different stages and types of eczema affect close to 31.6 million people in the US? Also referred to as atopic dermatitis, eczema presents as red, inflamed patches that feel scaly or bumpy. It often appears on the hands, neck, face, inside the elbows, or behind the knees.
Though there’s no cure for this condition, you can seek treatment and avoid irritants to manage the symptoms. You won’t have to worry about spreading eczema to another person since the condition isn’t contagious.
Eczema goes beyond causing skin discomfort. The condition can have a deep impact on your overall well-being, emotional state, and mental health. Here’s everything to know about the causes, symptoms, effects, and treatments for eczema:
Causes and Triggers of Eczema
While scientists are yet to uncover the exact cause of eczema, it’s speculated that the condition stems from environmental and genetic factors. It’s also believed that parents who have eczema can pass it on to their offspring.
The environmental triggers for eczema symptoms include irritants like soaps and disinfectants and allergens like mold, pet dander, and pollen. Microbes such as certain viruses and fungi and exposure to hot and cold temperatures can also trigger the condition.
Depending on your genetic predisposition to eczema, the symptoms may worsen when you’re under stress or when your hormone levels are changing (mostly in women). Foods like eggs, dairy products, wheat, nuts, and soy products are also known to trigger this condition.
General Eczema Symptoms
Eczema symptoms tend to be mild and present as itching, weeping or crusted sores, skin flushing, and dry, scaly skin. If the condition is severe, intense scratching and rubbing of the skin can put you at risk of skin infections.
People of color living with eczema experience brown or gray rashes. They may also have light or dark skin patches once the symptoms subside.
Babies under 2 years with atopic dermatitis may have bumpy, light, or dark rashes. The rashes appear behind the knees or elbows or on the ankles, wrists, and neck. Their skin may also thicken and get itchy.
How Eczema Affects Quality of Life
Atopic dermatitis can take a great toll on your life in both emotional and physical aspects. The condition may also have an emotional impact on people close to you as they try to empathize with your situation.
On a physical level, eczema can complicate allergic conditions such as rhinitis, food allergies, or asthma. It may also affect your physical performance, disturb your sleep patterns and affect your work and social life. As you rub your skin due to the itchy rashes, it loosens and becomes prone to fungal, viral, and bacterial infections.
On an emotional level, atopic dermatitis can cause significant emotional distress, sleep deprivation, anxiety, or stress to your loved ones as they process your condition. You may also suffer from anxiety and depression while coping with the symptoms. Though rare, you may face social isolation or discrimination and end up struggling with your self-esteem and sense of worth.
Treatments for Eczema
As the condition persists, you have to combine various treatments to manage the symptoms. Recognizing eczema early can make it easier to keep it under control.
Your physician may prescribe ointments or creams to control itching and repair the skin. These creams contain calcineurin inhibitors, which manage the autoimmune response of the condition. Other medications that can help include oral inflammation drugs or oral antibiotics to treat inflammation and fight infections.
Adbry can also be prescribed to treat moderate and severe eczema. The FDA-approved drug is usually administered through an injection under the skin. Speak to your dermatologist as soon as you experience any side effects when taking the drug.
Therapies such as wet dressings, light therapy, counseling, biofeedback, and behavior modification can also help. With wet dressings, wet bandages will be wrapped on the affected area to ease the symptoms, while light therapy uses natural sunlight to achieve the same. Approaches such as biofeedback, behavior modification, and counseling can help you share your experiences with an expert and resist the urge to scratch.
Lifestyle and home remedies such as moisturizing the skin and applying an anti-itch cream can help cope with the symptoms. Anti-itch or oral allergy medication may also reduce itching. Other home remedies to try include applying bandages, taking a warm bath, choosing mild soaps, using a humidifier, and wearing cool, smooth-textured clothes.
Need More Health-Related Insights
From this guide, you’ve learned that eczema causes skin discomfort that varies in severity. The condition also presents differently depending on your skin tone and age. Though it currently has no cure, certain lifestyle changes, medications, moisturizers, and home remedies can help keep it under control.
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