Is your skin red and itchy? Have you noticed small blisters on your face, hands, and feet? These are common symptoms of eczema, a condition that affects over 30 million Americans. Eczema is not a disease itself, but rather a group of disorders that cause inflammation of the skin. It occurs in people of all ages, especially children.
Eczema is often a symptom of contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or stasis dermatitis. It may also be caused by abnormal function of the immune system, genetics, and environment factors. Research indicates that eczema runs in families.
Contrary to popular belief, this disorder is not contagious. People living in cold climates and urban areas with high levels of pollution are more likely to develop eczema. Certain skin care products, shampoos, soaps, and foods may cause flare-ups. In general, women experience eczema symptoms at certain points in their menstrual cycle, or during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes taking place in their bodies.
This skin disorder triggers rashes, extreme itchiness, scaly skin, papules, rough bumps, and hives. Its symptoms may vary from one person to another. In severe cases, it can lead to inflammation of the skin around the lips, large patches on the hands and feet, open sores with crusts, and skin infections.
If left untreated, eczema may cause permanent damage to your skin. During a flare-up, your risk of contracting the herpes simplex virus increases. Other complications include skin lesions, scars, hair loss, and greasy scaling of the scalp. Some people also develop pimples on their chest, back, nose, and forehead.
Although there is no permanent cure for eczema, you can manage its symptoms through diet and medications. Treatment aims to relieve itching and reduce inflammation. The dermatologist may prescribe topical immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, or light therapy.
If you have eczema, it's recommended to avoid soaps and skin care products containing fragrances. Use a moisturizing cream designed for sensitive skin, wear cotton and soft fabrics, and maintain good skin hygiene. Take regular warm baths and apply cold compresses on the affected areas to reduce itching. Stress can worsen eczema, so it’s important to relax and get plenty of rest.