Understanding the Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatments of Eczema
Itchy, irritated skin can be a symptom of a number of different health conditions. But if your skin woes aren’t letting up – and they’re causing your skin to become inflamed and red – you might be dealing with eczema. Eczema, which is also called atopic dermatitis, is a condition that affects 10 to 20 percent of infants and approximately 3 percent of adults. And though eczema is primarily a skin condition, it can also be connected to other health conditions like asthma.
But eczema can be treated. In fact, many infants actually outgrow the condition, though some people do continue to experience symptoms on and off. With the right treatment options, eczema can be managed and controlled.
In order to properly treat eczema, it’s important to know the risk factors and symptoms that could cause it. With that information, you’ll be prepared to work with your doctor if you notice any signs that might potentially be eczema.
Are You At Risk of Developing Eczema?
Eczema is caused by a gene variation that changes the skin’s ability to protect itself from bacteria, allergens, and irritants. When this gene variation is present, it’s more difficult for skin to retain moisture and keep itself safe from external environmental factors. Different kinds of irritants, including allergens, can cause your skin to become irritated, red, and itchy.
Commonly, eczema appears on the face, particularly the cheeks and chin. However, it can appear anywhere on the body. But how can you determine if you’re at risk for developing eczema?
There are just a few risk factors associated with eczema. They include:
- Having a personal or family history of eczema.
- Living with allergies.
- Having hay fever.
- Living with asthma.
Eczema isn’t contagious, and you can’t “catch” or “pick up” eczema from another person. Because it’s tied to a genetic variation, your only risk factors are within your health history or your family’s.
What Eczema Symptoms Look Like
How can you tell if redness on your face is eczema or another health condition? Eczema symptoms can vary from person to person – and they may not appear consistent each time they occur.
But there are certain skin changes that can be a sign of eczema. The number one sign or symptom is feeling itchy. Eczema can bring on mild or moderate itching, but it can be much worse in some cases. And if you’re itching so badly that you’re scratching your skin until it bleeds, you might be dealing with eczema.
In addition to itchy skin, you might also experience these common eczema symptoms:
- Dry skin.
- Severe skin itching at night.
- Red or brownish-gray patches on your skin, particularly on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, chest, eyelids, elbows, knees, face, and scalp.
- Small bumps that might leak or crust over.
- A thickened, cracked, or scaly scalp.
- Raw and sensitive skin (often from scratching the itchiness).
In addition to looking different from person to person, eczema can also appear and disappear throughout your lifetime. The condition can flare up and present symptoms, then disappear and seem to clear up. These flares can go on for years.
Speak with your doctor if you’re worried about any potential symptoms of eczema. You can discuss any changes happening to your skin, and you can have your doctor do any necessary diagnostic testing.
Treating and Managing Eczema
If you are diagnosed with eczema, treating the condition is key to getting it under control. With the right treatment options, you may be able to see your eczema symptoms disappear, or you may be better able to control flares.
There is no cure for eczema. So, if you’re living with this condition, your goal during treatment will be to heal your skin and prevent future symptoms. Eczema can be a lifelong condition, or it can go into remission. And it can be treated or managed in a number of ways via home care and medication.
Home Care Treatment Options
There are many different ways you can treat eczema right at home. These easy remedies can help soothe symptoms, heal your skin, and relieve your biggest eczema frustrations. Home care treatment options include:
- Taking lukewarm baths.
- Applying moisturizer every day, particularly right after bathing.
- Wearing clothes made of cotton and soft fabrics only.
- Washing with mild, gentle cleansers.
- Air drying or gently patting skin dry after bathing.
- Avoiding sweating or rapid temperature changes.
- Using a humidifier.
Medication Treatment Options
Medication can treat eczema. You can use medication in combination with different home care remedies. There are a few different kinds of medication that are commonly prescribed for those with eczema:
- Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments, which are anti-inflammatory and can relieve skin inflammation and itching.
- Systemic corticosteroids, which are a short-term medication solution.
- Antibiotics, which can be used for a bacterial skin infection.
- Antiviral or antifungal medications, which can treat viral or fungal infections in the skin.
- Antihistamines, which can help combat nighttime skin scratching.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors, which suppress the immune system and decrease inflammation.
- Barrier repair moisturizers, which help the skin retain and restore moisture.
- Phototherapy, which uses UVA or UVB rays to help the skin.
Even though eczema is incurable, different treatment options may be able to resolve frustrating symptoms and skin changes. If you think you might be at risk of developing eczema, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor. You can examine your skin, keep an eye out for any symptoms, and work to resolve any skin changes or issues.