Is This Eczema?

Woman scratching arm

What is eczema?

Eczema refers to a group of medical conditions that cause your skin to become inflamed and irritated. There are several different types of eczema, and atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema) is the most common kind. This type is long-lasting and can be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.

What are its symptoms?

Eczema symptoms can vary from person to person and according to the type of eczema you have. You may experience times when your eczema flares up and other times when your symptoms go away entirely.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of eczema:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Itching, especially at night
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Red to brownish-gray patches of skin, often found on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet
  • Thickened, rough, cracked, or scaly skin
  • Small bumps that can ooze and crust over if they’re scratched

What causes eczema?

It’s not understood exactly what causes eczema, but we know that it’s not contagious, so it can’t be passed from one person to another. It’s thought to occur because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. You’re more likely to have eczema if you have a close relative that also has it or if you have asthma or allergies. The environmental triggers then cause your body’s immune system and skin cells to overreact to an irritant.

Environmental triggers for asthma include the following:

  • Very hot or cold weather
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes such as those that occur during menstruation or pregnancy
  • Animal dander and saliva
  • Sweat
  • Soaps, detergents, shampoos, and disinfectants
  • Foods including dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds
  • A cold or the flu

How is eczema diagnosed?

There are no specific lab tests that can diagnose eczema, but your dermatologist can often diagnose this condition by examining your skin and asking a few questions. Since people who have eczema often have allergies, your dermatologist may perform allergy tests to help determine if your symptoms have one or more specific triggers.

How is eczema treated?

Although there’s no cure for eczema, it can be treated and managed in the following ways:

  • Self-care – including learning what triggers your eczema and trying to avoid these irritants, moisturizing daily, using a mild soap or non-soap cleanser when bathing or showering, avoiding rapid temperature changes, and avoiding activities that make you sweat
  • Medications – including topical corticosteroid creams and ointments to help relieve inflammation and itching, systemic corticosteroids taken by injection or mouth, antihistamines, topical calcineurin inhibitors to suppress your immune system, phototherapy that exposures your skin to ultraviolet A or B waves, antibiotics to treat infections, or barrier repair moisturizers to help reduce water loss and repair your skin

If your skin has symptoms that may indicate that you have eczema or you’ve already been diagnosed with this condition, make an appointment today with Florida Academic Dermatology Center in Coral Gables, FL. Our experienced dermatologists will provide a diagnosis and the treatment you need to best control your symptoms.

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