31.6 million people in the US have some form of eczema. That is roughly one in ten Americans.
In most cases, they are affected by atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema. It causes the skin to become dry, uncomfortable and cracked and usually occurs during early childhood. Due to its visual appearance, eczema can also affect the mental wellbeing of those suffering from it.
So, to raise awareness of eczema and help ease its symptoms, we have created a guide to the condition below.
What is eczema?
Eczema is the name given to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. The symptoms can range from unnoticeably mild to overwhelmingly severe. Despite it most commonly occurring in children and gradually becoming more manageable, it occasionally develops in adults even if they have no pre-existing experience of it.
It is not a contagious condition. However, certain individuals are more likely to develop it on account of their genes. Consequently, if one or both of your parents (or your siblings) have atopic eczema, you are more likely to also suffer from it.
Although, this does not mean your skin will be continually dry and sore. On the contrary, for most sufferers, the condition remains dormant and only flares up when triggered, much like an allergic reaction.
The triggers most commonly associated with eczema include:
- Stress – If work is becoming difficult or there is uncertainty at home
- Allergens – Environmental factors like mold, mites and pet fur
- Irritants – If you use a new detergent or shampoo
- Clothing – Wool or similar materials that are close to the skin
What are the symptoms of eczema?
For those with mild eczema, you may find that only small patches of dry skin on your body are occasionally itchy. In contrast, those with severe eczema will experience patches that cover the entire body. This can lead to constant itching that may aggravate the symptoms even further.
This aggravation can result in sleepless nights and cause bleeding. While the impact on your rest can be devastating to your productivity in work or at school, subsequent skin infections are perhaps a bigger cause for concern.
Signs of a skin infection are usually:
- Fluid oozing from the skin
- A yellow scabbing and/or spotting on the skin surface
- Developing a fever, and varying from feeling hot to feeling cold in quick succession
- Your eczema becoming considerably worse over a short period of time
Aside from the above, your regular eczema symptoms will likely worsen, and your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics to control the infection. Once clear, your best course of action is to use new creams or ointments to prevent contamination.
Can eczema be treated?
While there are treatments to address the symptoms of eczema, there is still no known cure. Instead, you need to keep the condition under control with a strict hygiene routine – one that involves utilizing moisturizing products immediately after to keep your skin from drying out and cracking.
Our skin barrier is designed to help keep irritants and allergens out of the skin while retaining moisture. But for eczema sufferers, the condition creates an imbalance in the outermost layer of the skin, which can only be corrected if properly moisturized.
It is recommended that you moisturize within three minutes after a bath or shower. Wait too long, and the moisture your skin needs will evaporate and result in the skin becoming drier.
Typically, moisturizer for eczema comes in three forms:
Ointments – With the highest oil content of all moisturizing products, ointments like Advantan are usually the first port of call for eczema sufferers. Products with high oil content are the most effective in retaining moisture – however, they can feel greasy on the skin, leaving some to prefer creams.
Creams – While sometimes containing preservatives that can irritate the skin, creams tend to combine the best benefits of both ointments and lotions. Products like Temovate are not considered too oily, yet they can still seal in a large amount of moisture.
Lotions – Primarily made with water, lotions evaporate quickly and are even more likely to contain preservatives that can burn your already aggravated skin. Products like Diprosalic can still provide a reduction in irritation though. So, if the previous solutions are not working as effectively as you would like, it may be worth trying.
What about steroid treatment?
Topical corticosteroids (steroids), such as Aristocort, are creams designed to reduce the redness and rawness of the skin. Not to be confused with anabolic steroids, which are commonly misused to build muscle, corticosteroids have been used for more than 50 years in skin medication.
Corticosteroids naturally occur in the body and regulate our growth and immune system. They should be used in tandem with a moisturizer, but only once a day due to their potency. When the inflammation is under control, reduce or stop using the corticosteroid immediately to avoid a ‘rebound’ flare.
Do not be alarmed if any marks appear as a result of corticosteroid use. They are very rarely permanent. That being said, you can be more likely to suffer side effects if you use them on your face or around your mouth.
Side effects of corticosteroids include:
- Stretch marks
- Thickening or thinning of the skin
- Darkening of the skin
As a result, it is important to consult your doctor ahead of any new medication you take to combat your eczema.
Where we can help
At Medix, we understand that eczema is often overlooked. And we appreciate that, for those afflicted, it can take its toll – affecting everything from your productivity to both your physical and mental wellbeing.
That is why our customer service representatives are available seven days a week to assist you with your treatment. Get in touch with a member of the team today by calling 1-866-500-6633 (toll-free phone number), +44 1438 500111 (international phone number) or requesting a callback.