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Eczema, while not a life-threatening condition, can be very irritating and uncomfortable. This guide is designed to help patients understand the condition, including its causes, types, treatment options & living with eczema. We will also cover trigger factors for eczema and how to prevent eczema flare-ups. By understanding eczema, you can work more effectively with your dermatologist to find relief from this often vexing skin problem. Stay tuned!

What is eczema?

Eczema is a general term for a group of inflammatory skin conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy, and inflamed. Atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis are all types of eczema. While eczema can occur at any age, it most often starts in childhood. In fact, about 65% of people with eczema develop the condition before they turn one year old.

What causes eczema?

The exact cause of eczema is unknown. However, it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with eczema often have a family history of the condition. They may also be more likely to have other allergies, such as asthma or hay fever.

What are the symptoms of eczema?

Eczema typically causes dry, itchy skin. The severity of the symptoms can vary from person to person. In some cases, the itching and inflammation may be so severe that it interferes with sleep. The affected areas of skin may also crack, bleed, or ooze fluid.

What are the different types of eczema?

There are several different types of eczema, each with its own set of symptoms. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. It is often called “childhood eczema” because it most often starts in infancy or early childhood. However, atopic dermatitis can occur at any age.

Contact dermatitis is another type of eczema that is caused by contact with an irritant (such as a chemical) or an allergen (such as poison ivy). Seborrheic dermatitis is a third type of eczema that causes a scaly, red rash on the scalp, face, and other oily areas of the body. This form of eczema is thought to be caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that normally lives on the skin.

Who is at the risk of eczema?

There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing eczema. These include:

  • Family history: If you have a family member with eczema, you are more likely to develop the condition yourself.
  • Allergies: People with allergies are more likely to develop eczema.
  • Asthma: People with asthma are also more likely to develop eczema.
  • Environmental factors: Certain environmental factors, such as exposure to harsh chemicals or extreme weather conditions, can increase your risk of eczema.

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    How is eczema diagnosed?

    Eczema is typically diagnosed based on a physical examination of the skin and a review of your medical history. Your doctor may also perform a skin biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of skin to be examined under a microscope.

    What are the treatment options for eczema?

    There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments that can help to control the symptoms. These include over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments, prescription topical medications, oral medications, phototherapy (light therapy), and immunotherapy. The best treatment for eczema will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition.

    How can I prevent eczema flare-ups?

    There is no surefire way to prevent eczema flare-ups. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of triggering an outbreak.  These “trigger factors” can be different for everyone. Some common triggers include:

    Trigger factors for eczema

    • Irritants: Soaps, detergents, shampoos, or other products that contain harsh chemicals can trigger a flare-up.
    • Allergens: Dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or other allergens can cause the skin to become inflamed.
    • Dry skin: When the skin is dry, it is more likely to crack and bleed, which can lead to a flare-up.
    • Temperature changes: Extreme hot or cold temperatures can trigger eczema symptoms.
    • Stress: Stress can cause the body to release inflammatory chemicals that can make eczema worse.

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    Living with eczema

    Eczema can be a frustrating and challenging condition to live with. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and keep the condition under control. Be sure to work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works for you. 

    Eczema and your self-esteem

    Eczema can be more than just a skin condition. It can also have a significant impact on your self-esteem and quality of life. If you are struggling with eczema, it is important to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional. They can provide you with support and resources to help you cope with the physical and emotional challenges of living with eczema.

    Additionally, consider joining a support group for people with eczema. This can be a great way to share tips and coping strategies with others who are going through the same thing.

    What is the long-term outlook for people with eczema?

    There is no cure for eczema, but it is a treatable condition. With proper treatment, most people with eczema are able to control their symptoms and live relatively normal lives. However, eczema can be a chronic condition, which means it may flare up at times. Additionally, some people with eczema may develop skin infections. If you have eczema, be sure to work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works for you.

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