What is Eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that makes your skin dry, red and itchy. Though common in children, it can occur at any age. Most eczema cases are chronic and even when they appear to be gone, it tends to flare up periodically due to different triggers.

Currently, there is no cure for atopic dermatitis or eczema. But treatments and self-care measures can relieve itching. Historically, dermatologists has prescribed medicated steroid creams to alleviate symptoms but, steroid creams can cause harmful long term effects.

There are a few different kinds of eczema and they can occur on different parts of the body:
• Infantile eczema
• Atopic dermatitis (most common)
• Contact dermatitis (triggered by allergens)
• Dyshidrotic eczema (small blisters on hands and feet)
• Hand eczema (only on hand)
• Neurodermatitis (thick, scaly patches)
• Nummular eczema (round, coin-shaped spots)
• Stasis dermatitis (caused by fluid leaks)

We will explore each of these different types in depth in future blogs, but awareness is key to self-care.

You probably want to know what causes eczema, the best explanation is that healthy skin helps retain moisture and protects you from bacteria, irritants and allergens. Eczema is related to a gene variation that affects the skin's ability to provide this protection.

Symptoms for eczema can vary greatly from person to person but generally it resembles the following:
• Dry skin
• Itching (sometimes severe, especially at night)
• Red to brownish patches (especially on hands, feet, inside of elbows and knees and scalp)
Some people (especially infants and children), may experience flare ups from eating certain foods, including eggs, milk, soy and wheat. Talk to your doctor about identifying potential food allergies.

Try to identify and avoid triggers that may worsen the condition. Things that can worsen the skin reaction include sweat, stress, food, obesity, soaps, detergents, dust and pollen. Once you know what your triggers are, you should reduce your exposure to these. This may help the frequency and severity of your future flare ups.

Typical ways to take care of your skin include:
• Moisturize your skin at least twice a day with creams, ointments and lotions seal in moisture.
• Try to limit your baths and showers to 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid hot water, use warm water instead.
• Use only gentle and mild soaps. Deodorant soaps and antibacterial soaps can remove more natural oils and dry your skin.
• Dry yourself carefully. After bathing gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp.

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