More than 31 million Americans suffer from eczema. Eczema is a skin condition that can be very uncomfortable and unsightly. Diagnosing your type of eczema will help determine the best treatment options for healing your skin.
We’ll explain the different types of eczema, how to recognize atopic dermatitis, and how to treat and reduce eczema flare-ups. By understanding what kind of eczema you have, you’ll be able to avoid irritants and fortify your skin.
What is Eczema?
A common skin condition, eczema causes red, dry, itchy skin irritations. Eczema can affect people at any age. Some experience symptoms of eczema in infancy and early childhood, while others can develop eczema as an adult.
Eczema is not contagious. But environmental triggers can cause inflammation in the skin, creating dry, itchy patches that can appear anywhere on the body. Eczema cannot be cured, but you can manage and reduce flare-ups with proper treatment.
The Types of Eczema
There are seven types of eczema:
- Atopic Dermatitis: the most common type of eczema appears as a rash often found in body creases like elbows and knees. It may appear as small bumps that leak fluid when you scratch.
- Neurodermatitis: This can develop in people with other types of eczema or psoriasis, causing itchy, scaly patches to form on the arms, legs, neck, scalp, feet, hands, or genitals.
- Dyshidrotic Eczema: Allergies or substances can cause fluid-filled blisters on the hands and feet that itch and hurt.
- Nummular Eczema: A reaction to an insect bite or allergy to metal or chemicals that creates circular spots on the skin and can be extremely itchy or scaly.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: Triggered by exposure to chemicals, red, itchy, dry cracks or blisters form on the hands.
- Stasis Dermatitis: Caused by blood flow issues in the legs, fluid leaks from weak veins into your skin, creating swelling, redness, itching, and pain.
- Contact Dermatitis: Develops from touching a substance that causes an allergic or immune system reaction in the form of red, thick, scaly skin. Latex and metal are common irritants that cause contact dermatitis.
Individuals can have multiple types of eczema, so it is essential to talk to a dermatologist to diagnose and prescribe treatment options for each type of eczema.
The Causes and Triggers of Eczema
Researchers are not entirely certain about what causes eczema. The most common triggers are:
- Environmental Irritants
- Immune System’s Response to Allergens
- Stress Levels
For atopic eczema, the skin’s barrier is weak and struggles to prevent irritants and allergens from agitating the skin. People who have asthma and hay fever usually have atopic eczema. You can also get it if you have a family history of asthma, eczema, or hay fever.
People susceptible to dry skin or a weakened immune system can develop eczema as their skin’s ability to protect against environmental factors deteriorates, creating a cycle of unhealthy skin.
What Are the Symptoms of Eczema?
For atopic dermatitis, individuals can experience:
- A rash in the creases of the body, especially the elbows or knees
- The skin can appear darker, lighter, or thicker, creating a patchy area
- Small bumps that leak fluid when scratched
- Dry, itchy skin
- Babies can develop eczema on their cheeks or scalp.
If you are experiencing symptoms of eczema, you should be very careful not to scratch the irritated skin because it can become infected from scratching. You should contact your dermatologist about the best solution for healing and relieving the symptoms.
How is Eczema Diagnosed?
Your dermatologist will closely examine the irritated skin. They can often diagnose the type of eczema from the skin’s appearance. In some cases, your dermatologist will want to run a few tests to determine the cause or agitator, such as an allergy test, blood test, or skin biopsy.
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Treatment for Eczema
Luckily, there are several treatment options for managing and reducing eczema:
Depending on the severity of your eczema, your dermatologist may prescribe medication to help relieve the symptoms. These medications may include:
- Over-the-Counter (OTC) Antihistamines
- Cortisone Creams or Ointments
- Low-Potency Steroids
- Oral Corticosteroids
Your dermatologist may recommend phototherapy, which utilizes ultraviolet light or sun lamps to help boost the immune system’s response and clear up eczema.
If stress is triggering your eczema, you may want to consider lifestyle changes that can reduce stress, such as:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Listening to music
- Getting enough sleep
While a proper, twice-daily skincare routine is the best treatment for eczema. You may want to incorporate some of these other alternative treatments:
- Consuming green, oolong, or black tea
- Natural oils like coconut, borage, primrose, and sunflower
As always, it’s smart to consult with your dermatologist about which of these alternative treatments will work best for your type of eczema.
Risk Factors & Complications of Eczema
You may be considered higher risk for developing eczema if you or your family history has:
- Hay Fever
Complications that can develop from eczema:
- Asthma and hay fever
- Chronic itchy, scaly skin
- Skin infections
- Sleep problems
How to Prevent Eczema Flare-ups
The best way to prevent eczema flare-ups is to:
- Moisturize your skin twice a day using specially formulated creams, lotions, or ointments that can effectively seal in moisture to the skin.
- Fortify your skin barrier by maintaining an optimal pH level of 4.7.
- Identify and avoid environmental triggers or allergens that can agitate the skin.
Eczema can be very uncomfortable and annoying, but it is manageable. It’s important to diagnose your type of eczema to determine the best treatment option for reducing symptoms and identifying triggers.
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