Medical, Surgical, Cosmetic

What does eczema look and feel like?

Although eczema may look different from person to person, it is most often characterized by dry, red, extremely itchy patches on the skin. Eczema is sometimes referred to as “the itch that rashes,” since the itch, when scratched, results in the appearance of the rash.

Eczema can occur on just about any part of the body; however, in infants, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck. In children and adults, eczema typically occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles. In some people, eczema may “bubble up” and ooze. In others, the condition may appear more scaly, dry, and red. Chronic scratching causes the skin to take on a leathery texture because the skin thickens (lichenification).

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What makes patients with eczema itch?

Many substances have been identified as itch “triggers” in patients with eczema, and triggers are not the same for every person. Many times it is difficult to identify the exact trigger that causes a flare-up. For some, it seems that rough or coarse materials coming into contact with the skin causes itchiness. For others, feeling too hot and/or sweating will cause an outbreak. Other people find that certain soaps, detergents, disinfectants, contact with juices from fresh fruits and meats, dust mites, and animal saliva and danders may trigger itching. Upper respiratory infections (caused by viruses) may also be triggers. Stress can also sometimes aggravate an existing flare-up.

Who gets eczema?

Eczema occurs in both children and adults, but usually appears during infancy. Although there is no known cause for the disease, it often affects people with a family history of allergies. Those who are genetically predisposed and then exposed to environmental triggers may develop eczema. Many people who have eczema also suffer fromallergic rhinitis and asthma, or have family members who do.

How common is eczema?

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 15 million people in the United States have some form of eczema. About 10 percent to 20 percent of all infants have eczema; however, in nearly half of these children, the disease will improve greatly by the time they are between 5 and 15 years of age. Others will have some form of the disease throughout their lives.

How can eczema be prevented?

Eczema outbreaks can usually be avoided with some simple precautions. The following suggestions may help to reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups:

  • Moisturize frequently
  • Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity
  • Avoid sweating or overheating
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid scratchy materials (e.g., wool or other irritants)
  • Avoid harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents
  • Avoid environmental factors that trigger allergies (e.g., pollens, molds, mites, and animal dander)
  • Be aware of any foods that may cause an outbreak and avoid those foods

How can eczema be treated?

One of the most important components of an eczema treatment routine is to prevent scratching. Because eczema is usually dry and itchy, the most common treatment is the application of lotions or creams to keep the skin as moist as possible. These treatments are generally most effective when applied directly after bathing (within three minutes is a common recommendation) so that the moisture from the bath is “locked in.” Cold compresses applied directly to itchy skin can also help relieve itching. If the condition persists, worsens, or does not improve satisfactorily, another effective treatment is the application of nonprescription corticosteroid creams and ointments to reduce inflammation.

Alternatives to nonprescription corticosteroids include more potent prescription corticosteroid creams and ointments, and light therapy.  At DermSa we offer the use of Narrow Band UVB light therapy as another effective way to treat eczema.  Consult with your physcian about the best treatment for your specific type and severity of this condition.

Please vist http://www.skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/ for additional information on Eczema.

_______________________________ *Content developed with help of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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