October is eczema awareness month and those of us at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery want to share some facts about eczema.
Eczema is the name of a skin condition that causes the skin to become inflamed, itchy, and irritated. There are various types of eczema, but the most common is atopic dermatitis.
Who gets eczema?
Eczema is more common in infants than adults. Up to one fifth of infants develop the condition but most outgrow it by puberty. About three percent of U.S. adults develop eczema. Unfortunately, if adults develop the condition it is more likely to be chronic.
Eczema is commonly found in families with a history of allergies. In fact, eczema, allergies, and asthma are known as the atopic triad.
Eczema is almost always itchy. It is usually accompanied by a rash, although the itching commonly starts first. For this reason eczema is sometimes referred to as “the itch that rashes.” The rash is more common on the face, the back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet but can appear anywhere. Eczema typically looks like dry pink patches that can become thickened over time.
In infants the rash can become an oozing, crusting condition indicating that the skin has become infected.
What causes eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown. Like allergies, eczema is thought to be a byproduct of the body’s immune system overreacting to an irritant.
Flare-ups can be in response to certain substances or conditions. Common causes of eczema flares are:
- contact with rough or course materials or even sweat
- exposure to fragrance or chemicals
- stress (including emotional stress or illness)
- exposure to allergens (pollen, pet dander, etc)
- dry weather or environments
Diagnosis and treatment
At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery we can usually diagnose eczema by a simple examination of your skin and by asking a couple questions. In some cases skin allergy testing can be helpful to alleviate flares related to topical allergies.
Our goal for treatment is to relieve itching and the rash. Prescription topical creams to calm the skin’s immune response are often very helpful. If eczema becomes extensive oral medications or light treatments can be very useful. Antibiotics are used when skin has become secondarily infected.
With current medications available today no one has to suffer unnecessarily with eczema any longer. Call us at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, 503-297-3440 for a personalized plan to treat your eczema or other skin condition.