Eczema is a skin disease that causes intense itching and a red rash. The rash is usually scaly and can develop blisters and crusts. Itching can lead to scratching, which can cause the skin to bleed and create an infection. This is called the “itch-scratch cycle.”
There are seven types of eczema, but many of their symptoms and triggers overlap. This article focuses on the most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis.
There are several types of eczema. The most common one is atopic dermatitis. This eczema occurs when an individual inherits a sensitivity to allergens like animal dander and dust mites. This type of eczema is characterized by a weakened skin barrier that leads to inflammation and itchiness. This condition can cause oozing lesions on the scalp, face, arms, and legs. This condition is very itchy and can cause problems with daily activities.
Avoid excessive scratching, as this can cause infection. Moisturizing the skin with over-the-counter products can reduce inflammation and itching.
A person should consult a doctor if their rash is infected or painful or if it does not improve after over-the-counter treatments. A healthcare professional may recommend medication and lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms and reduce future flare-ups.
A healthcare professional can also recommend patch tests to determine whether allergens cause a reaction. A dermatologist specializes in skin conditions and can help those with eczema create a treatment plan.
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The most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema), is triggered by dry skin and an overactive immune system. It’s very itchy, and the rash can be red, scaly and oozing. The condition can be found on any body part and can flare up regularly. It is not contagious, but many things, including pet dander, soaps, detergents and lotions with heavy fragrances, cold weather, stress and illnesses such as the common cold can aggravate it.
Another common type of eczema is nummular dermatitis, which causes round coin-shaped spots that itch and can bleed. It usually appears on the hands but can be found on other body parts. Various things, including allergies to metals and chemicals, dry skin, and infections like herpes, can trigger this eczema.
Allergies to certain foods can trigger eczema, particularly in infants and young children. This is due to the breakdown of the skin barrier, which can allow toxins and allergens to enter the body. Your doctor may recommend an oral food challenge, in which you eat small foods that could trigger your eczema and then measure your response. In addition, your doctor may want to perform a blood test to check for mutations in the gene that produces filaggrin, which helps protect the skin from allergens and bacteria.
Many things, including everyday soaps, detergents, perfumes and surface cleaners, are common eczema triggers. Natural substances that irritate the skin, like fruit or vegetable juices, may also trigger symptoms. Other irritants include secondhand smoke, pet dander and some foods. Some people with eczema find their symptoms worsen when they touch certain objects, such as wool clothing or metals. Keeping a journal and noticing patterns can help you identify your specific triggers.
The weather can also be a common eczema trigger. Abrupt temperature changes can dry the skin, such as going from cold to hot or from air-conditioned environments to outside. Humidity can also irritate the skin, especially during the winter when it’s low. Sweat can also trigger a flare-up in some people, so wearing light, breathable clothes and using a humidifier indoors is important.
Stress and emotional upset can sometimes cause a person’s eczema to flare up. Some patients find that their symptoms become itchy and scaly when they’re under pressure, or they may scratch their skin excessively. If your eczema flares up during these times, try to manage your stress or get counseling to ease your anxiety. Your symptoms will improve when you remove the triggers that cause your eczema to flare.
There’s no cure for eczema, but treatments can reduce symptoms and prevent them from flaring up. Treatment options include over-the-counter medicines, prescription medications, special skincare and lifestyle changes. You’ll likely need a combination of treatments to get the best results.
Some common eczema triggers include soaps, detergents, fragrances, wool or synthetic fabrics, cold weather and stress. Other triggers may be food allergies like eggs, dairy or nuts. You can also get triggered by some foods if you have a mutation in a gene called filaggrin. This gene is important for the formation of the skin barrier. People who have this mutation can’t repair their skin barrier as well, so they have a higher risk of developing eczema.
A good way to prevent eczema flares is to use gentle or sensitive skin moisturizers on your skin throughout the day. You can also use lotions and creams with antihistamines or steroid creams to manage symptom flare-ups. It’s also recommended that you wear loose cotton clothes and wash them frequently, but not in hot water. It would help to keep your fingernails short so they don’t injure the skin while scratching. If you’re allergic to certain things, you can take allergy shots (which contain small doses of what you’re allergic to) to help control your symptoms. This treatment option is approved for asthma and hay fever but has also been used successfully for treating eczema in some patients.