Eczema, also called dermatitis, is a very common skin condition that affects women and men of all ages. More than 30 million children and adults in the U.S. have some form of eczema. About half of children outgrow their eczema by the time they are adults.
Eczema symptoms can range from itchy, dry or cracked skin to severe inflammation with crusty plaques or weeping, oozing blisters.
Though there are many myths about what causes eczema, the exact causes are unknown. There are, however, several factors that can increase your risk of developing certain types of eczema. Sometimes, eczema runs in families, so there is a genetic predisposition. Other times, factors such as age, allergies, an overactive immune system, stress, extreme temperatures or underlying health conditions can trigger eczema.
Though there is no cure for eczema, there are several things you can do to manage and relieve your symptoms during flare-ups. Here are the top three ways to manage your eczema according to an eczema specialist:
#1 Moisturize Twice a Day, Every Day
The best thing you can do to manage your eczema is to add moisture back into your skin. Moisturize several times a day — especially after bathing — with a quality moisturizer to restore moisture to your skin and build up a barrier against dryness.
"Lukewarm baths or showers can hydrate and cool the skin (hot showers should be avoided). I recommend using unscented, mild soap or a non-soap cleanser (such as Cetaphil)," says Dr. Amanda "Amy" Wolthoff of U.S. Dermatology Partners of Dallas - Uptown. "An emollient (moisturizer) should be applied immediately after bathing or showering to prevent the skin from drying out as a result of water evaporation."
To relieve eczema on your hands, apply a good moisturizer then wear pure cotton gloves to bed to help the lotion or cream fully penetrate the skin overnight.
#2 Ditch Harsh Soaps and Chemicals
Choose mild soaps without added fragrances or harsh additives, and always wash with lukewarm water instead of hot water, which can dry your skin. Detergents and cleaners with perfumes and chemicals can irritate your skin. Look for products specially formulated for sensitive skin.
"In some cases, the chlorine in pools can irritate the skin and be a trigger for an eczema flare," says Dr. Wolthoff. "In these cases, it is best to rinse off immediately after getting out of the pool and apply a good moisturizer."
#3 Protect Yourself From the Elements
As outdoor temperatures drop, indoor heaters kick in. Warm inside air is dry, which can dry out your skin.
"Besides applying a moisturizer there are other ways to hydrate the skin as well," says Dr. Wolthoff. "Drinking plenty of water can help nourish the skin. Using a humidifier during more dry times of the year can put some of the lost moisture back into the air and thus into the skin. Keeping the skin moist is the best way to increase the time between eczema flares."
When outside in the cold, dry air, protect your skin with winter clothing and gloves, and always wear sunscreen — even in cold winter months when you think you may not need it.
Other ways to manage your eczema include fighting the urge to scratch your skin, which can further damage it, and staying away from fabrics like wool, which can irritate your skin as they rub against it.
#4 Get the Treatment That's Right For Your Eczema
According to the National Eczema Association, there are eight different types of eczema, and you can have more than one type at a time.
The most common type of eczema, which is especially prevalent in children, is atopic dermatitis. This is the most severe and long-lasting type of eczema and is often related to other conditions such as asthma and hay fever. Atopic dermatitis is both chronic and inflammatory. The immune system is triggered by something and goes into overdrive, causing dry, scaly skin that is red and itchy.
Contact dermatitis is most likely to develop in adults and typically occurs when the skin comes in contact with some kind of irritant or allergen. This contact causes the skin to become burn, itch and become inflamed. Irritants could include anything from industrial chemicals to detergents, paints, bleach, wool or allergens such as pollen or animal dander.
"The severity of eczema can vary from person to person. The right treatment for each individual's eczema depends on the type, location, cause
In the most severe cases, your dermatologist may even recommend an antibiotic, antihistamine or immunosuppressant drug.
To learn more about how to manage your eczema symptoms, contact one of our eczema specialists at U.S. Dermatology Partners today.