9 Common Questions About Eczema — Answered
If you struggle with eczema, it can be difficult to determine your triggers, let along manage your symptoms.To help, we tapped Dr. Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant, and Dr. Latanya Benjamin, associate professor of pediatric dermatology. From what causes eczema to how to get rid of that uncomfortable itch, we’re answering all of your burning questions about eczema below.
What Is Eczema?
“Eczema is a condition in which the outer skin layer is not working as well as it should be,” Dr. Zeichner says. “The skin develops microscopic cracks in it with loss of hydration and inflammation.” The symptoms of eczema can range from mild or moderate to severe. It is a chronic condition, so flares can come and go periodically.
How Common Is Eczema?
According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), eczema affects over 30 million Americans, both children and adults of all ages. “Symptoms appear early in life before the age of five years for the majority of individuals,” says Dr. Benjamin. “However, the first signs typically appear in infancy between three to six months of age.”
What Are the Signs Of Eczema?
The symptoms of eczema can often vary, meaning your eczema may not resemble the eczema of your friend. But one symptom that typically remains universal is itchiness. For many, the itch associated with eczema is mild or moderate. But in some instances, the itch can become severe and interfere with daily activities. Red bumps that are scaly, dry, and feel rough in texture are also typical symptoms of eczema, according to the Mayo Clinic.
You may have one or all of these common symptoms, but the only way to know for sure if you have eczema is to visit your dermatologist. He or she can usually come up with a diagnosis just by looking at your skin and hearing about your symptoms.
What Can Trigger Eczema?
Unfortunately, the root cause of eczema is not yet known. However, Dr. Zeichner suggests that genetics, harsh scrubbing and environmental factors may play a pivotal role in its development. “Eczema can be made worse if you are over-scrubbing the skin, are exposed to water for long periods of time, such as long hot showers that strip the skin of natural protective oils, or when the weather is cold and dry during the wintertime,” he says. The NEA also suggests that eczema symptoms tend to get worse during times of immense stress. Additional eczema triggers can include cigarette smoke, fragrances, irritating fabrics, harsh soaps and household cleaners.
How Do You Treat Eczema?
The first step to help manage eczema itch is to prevent it from happening in the first place. “The best thing that you can do for your skin if you have eczema is use a good moisturizer to help protect and hydrate,” Dr. Zeichner says. Moisturizers are great for providing protection to the outermost layer of the skin, known as the skin barrier. Those with eczema tend to have a damaged skin barrier, which can lead to increased sensitivity toward irritants, allergens, bacteria, and other invaders. What’s more, a damaged skin barrier makes it difficult for the skin to retain water, which can in turn lead to dry and itchy skin.
Curious as to what moisturizer you should use? According to the NEA, the more oil in a moisturizer, the better it usually is at improving eczema symptoms. Ointments and creams are typically great options, as they contain more oil and are effective at keeping moisture in and irritants out. We recommend trying La Roche-Posay’s Lipikar Eczema Soothing Relief Cream. Formulated with shea butter, glycerin, niacinamide, colloidal oatmeal and a high concentration of prebiotic thermal water, the formula is clinically shown to relieve itchy, irritated skin associated with eczema and help visibly reduce the signs of eczema on the body, hands and face.
How Can You Address Eczema In Children And Prevent Itching?
When it comes to targeting eczema in children, Dr. Benjamin says to first follow your doctor’s recommendation for proper skin care that can help address the skin barrier defect. But typically, these steps aren’t too far off from how adults would address eczema. Dr. Benjamin recommends to “use mild products, avoid known irritants to the skin and hot long baths, stay in cool environments, avoid scratching (rub if you have to) and minimize stress whenever possible.” She also notes that a moisturizing massage may be able to help reduce the urge to itch. Worst-case scenario, “if your child’s eczema is uncontrolled or severe enough,” Dr. Benjamin says. “antihistamine and prescription medications may be added by your dermatologist.”
Can Eczema Be Prevented?
You may not be able to prevent eczema flares, but you can effectively manage symptoms and avoid specific triggers. To help minimize the risk of drying out your skin, The Cleveland Clinic recommends using mild soaps in the shower, and following with moisturizer to lock in hydration while your skin is still slightly damp. Steer clear of clothes that can irritate your skin, opting instead for loose-fitting clothes in soft and comfortable fabrics. Lastly, help manage the stress in your life and stay hydrated from the inside out. In addition to drinking the recommended amount of water each and every day, be sure to keep your skin hydrated on the outside with creams, ointments and lotions.
Is Eczema Contagious?
Eczema is not contagious. You cannot “catch” eczema from touching someone else’s skin.
Can Eczema Be Cured?
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for eczema. But with proper lifestyle habits and a well-rounded skin care regimen, you can help control and minimize its effects.