Eczema is an often painful and chronic skin condition. It is most common in babies and children, but it can occur in teens and adults as well. In fact, it’s a common enough condition that according to the National Eczema Association, over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema.
Treating the symptoms of eczema can sometimes be quite challenging, as it doesn’t always respond well to all types of treatment. Sometimes you need professional help from a dermatologist to manage eczema, whether it’s your child’s or your own. Dr. Javier Zelaya at Skinworks Dermatology offers this guide to what eczema is and how it can be treated.
Symptoms of eczema
Eczema is worse than just dry skin. It looks like a rash, but it’s important to know that it isn’t contagious. Every person who has eczema has a unique combination of symptoms. But the most symptoms of eczema include the following:
- Red or brown patches of skin
- Intense itching, which is often made worse by scratching the itch, making the cycle more painful
- Dry, thickened skin that may appear leathery
- Areas of swelling
- Small raised bumps that can ooze fluid
- Patches of crusty, yellowish skin, which is dried fluid and can be a sign of infection
In infants, eczema is most likely to occur on the face, scalp, and forehead. In older children and adults, it is more likely to occur on the neck, wrists, ankles, in the creases of the elbows and knees, and in the crease between the buttocks and the legs.
What causes eczema?
Nobody knows exactly what causes eczema. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of disorder, as many people can have different symptoms and triggers. It also varies in severity from one person to the next, from mild to severe. However, some possible triggers for eczema include the following:
- The winter season, because of dry indoor air
- Food allergies
- Synthetic fabrics
- Animal dander
- Fragrances and detergents
- Temperature changes
- A cold or respiratory illness
For reasons still unknown, eczema seems to be more likely to occur in families with a history of eczema, asthma, or seasonal allergies.
How eczema is treated
Eczema can be challenging to treat because the condition is so unique to each person who has it. Just as your symptoms and triggers can be unique so is the treatment that will work best for you.
Treatment usually takes a multi-pronged approach. Dr. Zelaya wants to find the underlying triggers and heal the existing skin, then recommend self-care options you can continue in your lifestyle at home. Some of the treatments he might use include the following:
- Light therapy
- Antibiotics, if you have infected skin
- Anti-itch medicines
- Anti-inflammatory medicines
- Topical creams to soothe the itching
- Moisturizers and sunscreen to protect your skin from further irritation
- Wrapping your skin in bandages with a corticosteroid cream
- Topical creams that suppress your immune system
Dr. Zelaya will also work with you on recommending lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of having another eczema flare-up. In some cases, that might include getting food allergy tests, as there is a link between what we eat and the condition of our skin.
If you or your child are living with the discomfort of eczema, know that help is available. Call Dr. Zelaya today, or request an appointment online.