Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
What is eczema?
It’s not always easy to identify what eczema is and whether you have it or not. Everything from allergies to psoriasis can cause skin issues that may seem like similar symptoms. But, if you’re having trouble finding relief from your dry, itchy skin, you may want to learn more about eczema.
Today I’m sharing what eczema is and answering ten common questions asked about the skin condition. Plus, I’m sharing my tips on how I reduce outbreaks and find some relief.
So, what is eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory condition that causes itching and irritation. Based on experts, the skin condition essentially comes down to having an issue with your skin barrier. Your skin can’t adequately retain moisture and protect you from irritants, allergens, and environmental elements. Without properly retaining hydration and moisture AND having a compromised skin barrier, your skin is susceptible to inflammation, leading to dry, irritated skin.
“1 in 10 people will develop eczema at some point in their lifetime.” (1)
It’s not a contagious skin condition, and the exact cause is unknown.
And though many people think of eczema as one specific skin condition, there are various types:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Seborrheic dermatitis, and
- Stasis dermatitis
Wait, there’s more than one type of eczema?
Yes, there are! The most common is atopic dermatitis. And with this type, your skin can become itchy, inflamed, and extremely dry.
Well, what causes eczema?
Experts don’t totally understand how people develop eczema, but genetics and where you live play a role, among other factors.
- Genetics: People with a family history of eczema, allergies, or asthma are more likely to develop it, says the AAD. Studies also show that women are slightly more likely to develop this skin condition, the AAD says. I would’ve assumed it was due to our hormonal fluctuations, but there’s no research on why the disparity exists.
- Environment: Where you live makes a difference. The National Eczema Association says that climate, air pollution, and other environmental factors can increase your risk.
What does eczema look like?
During a flare-up, your skin can look red and inflamed. If left untreated, the flare-up can leave you with skin darkness and scaly skin patches.
Where are you likely to have an eczema flare-up?
The common areas on the body for flare-ups are:
- The back of the neck
- Behind the knees
- In the creases of the elbows
- Hands & Feet
This has been mistaken for other skin conditions like an allergic reaction, dandruff, and psoriasis, at first glance. If you’re not sure, I recommend going to a dermatologist to get a solid diagnosis.
So, this skin condition isn’t just dry skin?
No, it’s not. It’s a little more complicated than that.
Since people with eczema have compromised skin barriers, moisture loss and dry skin are common.
But with eczema, it’s not a question of “are you dry and itchy?” It’s “how bad and how often?”
The truth is, if you have this skin condition, you’re always dealing with dry, itchy skin. And depending on the severity of your skin condition, the itching can be intense and constant.
What can trigger an eczema breakout?
Since this is an inflammatory condition, associated with health issues like asthma and allergies, it’s no surprise that the below circumstances can trigger a flare-up:
- pet dander
- cold and dry air
- having a cold or the flu
- being exposed to irritating chemicals or fabrics
- stress, and
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), taking a long, steaming-hot shower and not moisturizing your skin well can make eczema worse.
How is eczema diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing dry, itchy, or red skin in the areas of the body we talked about above, go see a dermatologist. A dermatologist will provide you with a diagnosis after reviewing your medical history and examining your skin.
Can you prevent eczema outbreaks?
I don’t believe you can prevent breakouts, but I have some tips for reducing flare-ups here.
How do you treat eczema?
Depending on how severe your condition is, your dermatologist may also prescribe an antibiotic to treat any bacterial infections from scratching.
In general, if you suffer from eczema, opt for a good moisturizer and use products geared toward sensitive skin. While there’s no cure, there are plenty of things that can keep dry skin and itchiness at bay.
For more information, check out these three resources:
Do you have any other questions about eczema? Let me know in the comments below.