October is Eczema Awareness Month
Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed, or have a rash-like appearance. There are seven types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. Eczema is very common. In fact, over 31 million Americans have some form of eczema. Eczema can begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and it can range from mild to severe.
Eczema is not contagious. You can’t “catch it” from someone else. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. When an irritant or an allergen from outside or inside the body “switches on” the immune system, it produces inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the symptoms common to most types of eczema.
The symptoms of eczema can be so visible and intense that people living with this skin condition are constantly aware of them. “It isn’t just the symptoms — the incessant itching, the redness, and the inflammation — it’s the sleepless nights, it’s the depression and anxiety,” explains Julie Block, president, and CEO of the National Eczema Association (NEA). “It’s the truth that for many with moderate to severe disease, every waking moment is a decision based on how their skin is.”
What they are grappling with is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition linked to an overreactive immune system. Symptoms include skin that is dry, inflamed, itchy, rashy, scaly, or oozing clear fluid when scratched (a symptom called “weepy” skin). Triggers for flare-ups can be dry skin, allergens such as pet dander or seasonal pollen, chemical irritants such as laundry detergents or scented soaps, stress, hormonal changes, or infections. Eczema may disappear as a child grows older or continue into adulthood, notes the NEA.
Most people with mild symptoms can manage eczema with over-the-counter products. Yet those who have moderate to severe symptoms can feel worn down by the continual need to avoid triggers or the negative reactions that others may have to visible signs of eczema.
There is no cure for eczema but there are treatments. Depending on age and eczema severity, these treatments include over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, prescription topical medications, phototherapy, immunosuppressants, and biologic drugs. Many people with eczema also find success with specific natural and alternative treatments.
For most types of eczema, managing flares comes down to these basics:
- Know your triggers so that you can avoid exposure
- Implement a daily bathing and moisturizing routine
- Use OTC and prescription medication consistently and as prescribed
Symptoms may be different from one child to the next. More often than not, eczema goes away as a child grows older, though some children will continue to experience eczema into adulthood. Adults can develop eczema, too, even if they never had it as a child.
Schedule an appointment at our office if you or somebody in your household has Eczema. We will help relieve the discomfort. You can contact Western Maryland Dermatology at (301) 777-7900 or visit us online at wmderma.com/contact where you can chat with one of our reservation specialists.