Eczema is the term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become irritated. Eczema affects about 10-20 percent of infants and about 3 percent of adults and children in the U.S. Most infants outgrow their eczema by age 10. The most common type of eczema is known at atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema, and in some people outbreaks can occur throughout their lives.
October is Eczema Awareness Month, and since we treat a fair amount of eczema at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, let’s help with that awareness by providing some information on this most irritating skin condition.
What are the symptoms of eczema?
Itching is the main symptom of eczema, no matter where it occurs on your skin. Often the itching begins before a rash shows itself. When the rash develops, it is usually on the face, wrists, hands, feet, or the back of the knees.
Areas affected by eczema will appear very dry, scaly, and thickened. When the person has fair skin, these areas may appear reddish and then turn brown. In those with darker skin tones, their eczema can affect pigmentation, either darkening or lightening the affected area.
In infants, eczema usually shows up on the face and scalp, where it can produce an oozing, crusting condition.
What is the cause of eczema?
It has been difficult for science to find a direct cause for Eczema, but it’s thought the condition is linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to an irritant. The irritant itself doesn’t cause the scaly skin and itching, it’s your body’s immune response that causes these symptoms.
In some people, they can have an outbreak of eczema in response to certain substances or conditions. For some, these may be rough or coarse materials. For others, exposure to certain household cleaners or soaps can be the trigger. In others, it may be animal dander or simply feeling too hot or too cold. Stress can make eczema worse.
Eczema is commonly found in families with a history of other allergies or asthma.
At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we can usually diagnose your eczema from a simple skin exam. If we think it is allergy triggered, we may do patch testing to find the allergens responsible.
For treatment we have many options: prescription topical creams, oral medications, and narrow band UVB light therapy.