Eczema, also called “dermatitis,” refers to several different rash-like conditions where the skin is inflamed, red and irritated. The most severe and long-lasting type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. During a flare-up, the skin becomes extremely red, itchy and scaly. This skin condition can be widespread, or confined to only a few areas on the body.
Eczema is not contagious, although if you have a family history of eczema, your risk for the disease increases. Generally, atopic dermatitis affects infants or young children and may last until the child reaches adulthood.
The appearance and symptoms for atopic dermatitis will vary for each case. Intense itching is the most common sign of eczema, which can lead to severe discomfort and even loss of sleep. Other common symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry, red and extremely itchy patches of skin
- Cracked, inflamed and scaly skin
- Small bumps or blisters that ooze and weep
- In infants, the rash generally appears on the cheeks and around the mouth
Eczema outbreaks are caused by an overreaction of your skin’s immune system to environmental and emotional triggers, such as temperature, chemicals, dust, mold or stress. While there is currently no cure, eczema sufferers can practice self-care at home to help reduce flare-ups. Lifestyle adjustments are the best line of defense in controlling all types of eczema. Goals of treatment include reducing inflammation, decreasing risk of infection and alleviating the itch. To minimize symptoms and outbreaks:
- Moisturize every day to prevent dryness and cracking.
- Limit contact with irritants, such as soaps, clothing, jewelry, foods and detergents.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperatures as overheating and sweating are common triggers of flare-ups.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Minimize exposure to mold, pollens and animal dander.
- Opt for cotton, loose-fitting clothes and avoid wool and other rough materials.
Treatment for eczema begins with a proper diagnosis from your dermatologist. If you are diagnosed with eczema, your dermatologist can explain your type of eczema and can work with you to tailor a treatment plan that meets your individual needs to effectively manage the symptoms.