10 Facts About Eczema Everyone Should Know
Eczema is a general term that refers to several skin conditions. Typically, eczema is associated with skin that’s become dry, inflamed, itchy, red or discolored. Severe cases may lead to scaly, cracking or swelling skin. Flare-ups commonly occur around the elbows and knees, the back of the neck or the back of the hands. Eczema is a chronic condition, although it can go into remission for periods of time.
Understanding eczema is crucial to receiving the right treatment. Learn more with these 10 eczema facts.
1. There Are Several Different Types of Eczema
Not only are there different types of eczema, but the condition affects everyone differently. A professional diagnosis can ensure your treatment aligns with your specific symptoms. The 8 conditions most commonly referred to as eczema are:
- Atopic Dermatitis: The most common form leads to red, scaly patches of skin
- Contact Dermatitis: A rash caused by contact with an allergen
- Dyshidrotic Eczema: Typically appears as blisters on the hands
- Hand Eczema: Any type of dermatitis on the hands
- Neurodermatitis: Chronic itch that leads to thickened, scaly patches of skin.
- Nummular Eczema: Itchy, coin-shaped spots on the skin
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: Scaly, red or itchy skin on the scalp
- Stasis Dermatitis: Redness or inflammation of the legs, caused by chronic edema
2. Eczema is Not Always Atopic Dermatitis
The terms ‘eczema’ and ‘dermatitis’ are used interchangeably to describe any inflammatory skin condition. Atopic dermatitis is often referred to simply as ‘eczema’ because it’s the most common type of eczema. But not all eczema is atopic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis typically begins in early childhood, but can occur at any age. This common skin condition affects up to 20% of the population and makes skin red and itchy. Although there is no cure, some patients experience periods of remission that last several years.
3. Eczema Can Affect People of Any Age
Although the most common form of eczema generally appears before the age of 5, eczema can affect people at any age. Some forms of eczema appear only in adulthood, and others are more common among seniors.
It’s estimated that over 30 million people in the United States have some form of eczema. This population spans all ages, genders and races.
4. Eczema is Hereditary
Atopic dermatitis, one of the most common causes of eczema, is a genetic condition which is passed from one generation to the next. However, not everyone with the inherited gene develops eczema during their lifetime. For eczema to manifest, both genetic and environmental conditions must be met. The following factors make you more susceptible to developing eczema:
- Prone to allergies
- Immune system dysfunction
- Endocrine disorders such as thyroid disease
- Skin colonization with certain bacteria, like staphylococcus aureus
- Living in a cold climate, or living in an urban area with pollution
5. Eczema Can Lead to Other Skin Problems
Severe eczema disturbs the barrier between your skin and the environment, making you more prone to infection. Skin infections may include viral warts or bacterial infections, such as staph.
Chronic dryness, itching and inflammation may lead to permanent skin discoloration or a thickening of the skin.
6. Eczema Has Certain Environmental Triggers
While eczema is not an allergic reaction, it does flare up in response to certain environmental triggers. Understanding what triggers your particular condition can help prevent future flare ups. The most common triggers for eczema include the following:
- Certain foods or food allergies
- Chemicals found in certain cleaning products, body soaps, laundry detergents
- Changes in climate, such as a shift from humid to dry conditions
- Rubbing against irritating materials such as wool, latex or plastic
- Environmental irritants such as dust, dirt, or air pollutants
- Excessive sweat
- Insect bites
7. Scratching Makes Eczema Worse
Eczema is often itchy, and while scratching can offer temporary relief, it never helps in the long run. Scratching affected skin can lead to greater irritation and inflammation, and opens your skin to the possibility of infection.
Instead of scratching, mitigate itch with daily moisturizing, oatmeal baths, anti-itch cream or other treatments prescribed by your doctor.
8. Eczema is Not Contagious
Eczema may look unpleasant during a flare up, but it’s not a contagious condition. You cannot catch eczema from someone else, nor can they catch it from you.
If you experience a rash that seems to be shared by others in your immediate environment, that’s a good indication it’s something other than eczema such as poison ivy.
9. There Is No Cure for Eczema, But It Can Be Managed
Eczema is a chronic condition, but in most cases, symptoms can be controlled and patients may enjoy long periods of remission. Catching eczema in the early stages, and understanding exactly which type you have, are both critical to finding effective treatment.
10. Eczema Goes More Than Skin Deep
The symptoms of eczema appear on the skin, but the condition goes much deeper than that. People with eczema are not only more susceptible to allergies and immune-related disorders, but they must contend with the very real effect eczema has on self-esteem, anxiety, and quality of life.
If you’re struggling with eczema and the associated physical and psychological discomfort, a visit to your dermatologist can help offer relief.