Skin conditions are common, with many types and many causes. Some skin conditions are minor and temporary, while others come and go, reappearing as flare-ups.
Eczema is one of the latter. It’s not as common as acne, but it affects about 10% of the U.S. population or over 30 million people.
There are several ways to treat eczema and prevent flare-ups, but can an outbreak end without treatment at all? Here’s what Dr. Javier Zelaya and his team at Skinworks Dermatology, with three New York City locations, want you to know about dealing with eczema.
How eczema affects your skin
Your skin is a barrier against many external threats. It has what’s known as a skin barrier to keep out environmental toxins and pathogens that can harm you. It’s the outermost layer of skin and mainly composed of keratin, natural moisturizers, cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides.
Eczema is a form of dermatitis that damages and weakens this layer of skin in areas like your hands, elbows, neck, feet, ankles, ears, lips, and face.
There are several types of eczema; atopic dermatitis is the most common, although it’s possible to have more than one form.
Common triggers and symptoms
Eczema is generally triggered by internal and external factors, including:
- Cleanser and detergent chemicals
- Scented products
- Cigarette smoke
- Common allergens (e.g., pet dander, dust mites, mold, and pollen)
- Food allergies
- Upper respiratory infections
A flare-up caused by any of these can lead to symptoms that include:
- Severe itching
- Patches of reddish-brown or gray skin
- Small red bumps (sometimes oozing)
- Crusty patches of yellowish ooze
- Sore skin
- Thickened, scaly skin
For many people, eczema flare-ups are more common at night, creating sleeping problems that can lead to infections.
Preventing eczema flare-ups
Exposure to triggers is the biggest factor in determining how long you might have to deal with an eczema outbreak. If treated, a flare-up can last up to three weeks. If you’re constantly around the trigger, it can become chronic and last a lot longer.
Everyone experiences flare-ups differently due to the variety of triggers and levels of exposure.
To answer the original question: Sadly, no, the outbreak won’t go away without treatment. But you can take steps to prevent outbreaks from happening:
- Try to avoid your eczema triggers
- Reduce stress
- Routinely clean your skin
- Take warm rather than hot showers and baths
- Moisturize your skin
- Use unscented and dye-free cleaners
- Wear comfortable, soft clothes
Eczema can leave blemishes on your skin, so proper management of this skin condition is critical. For help treating your eczema, call the Skinworks Dermatology location in Maspeth, Chelsea, or Park Slope, or request your appointment online.