Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, results in patches of extremely red and inflamed skin that can appear anywhere on the body.
Eczema is a widespread skin condition. In fact, experts estimate that roughly 1 in 10 people–or more than 30 million people–have some form of this condition in the United States alone. While many may know what eczema looks like (rough, red scaly patches of skin), that’s about the extent of their knowledge. Considering how common eczema is, though, it pays for everyone to know a little bit more about it.
What causes it?
Experts are currently unsure of just what causes this condition. However, they believe that a combination of factors may play a role in its development, including:
- Genetics/family history
- Overactive immune system
- Contact with an irritating substance
- Excessive sweating
Is eczema contagious?
No. Eczema is not contagious.
What do the rashes feel like?
Eczema is usually itchy and can cause the skin the break open with enough scratching. When the skin breaks, infection can set in. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear why or when an eczema flare-up occurs.
What are the types of eczema?
There are actually several forms of this condition. Four of the main types of eczema are contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, nummular dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.
This variety occurs when something irritates the skin, such as a harsh soap. Fortunately, this variety is easily treated; simply remove the irritating substance, and the skin irritation should start to subside almost immediately.
This form tends to affect cisgender women more often than it does cisgender men. It results in painful, cracked red skin on the hands and feet.
This variety typically affects men moreso than it does women, resulting in dry patches of skin on the legs.
This kind results in itchy red patches on the scalp, behind the ears, on the eyelids, and the sides of the nose.
How is eczema diagnosed?
You will need to see a physician to be sure that what you have is eczema and not a similar-looking, but different, skin disease, such as psoriasis.
To begin, your physician will ask you questions about your symptoms and history before examining you. They may also perform a patch test on your affected areas to try to determine possible irritants that may be causing the outbreaks. Often, though, the exact cause of eczema in the individual will remain unknown. You can also visit a specialist, such as a dermatologist or an allergist, who may be able to help you more precisely pinpoint personal irritants.
There are plenty of treatments for this condition, and they will vary significantly based on the individual, what causes their eczema, and the severity of their flare-up.
Antihistamines and Creams
Remedies for eczema include antihistamines such as Benadryl and cortisone-type skin creams. Some of these creams are available over the counter. If they don’t provide enough relief, there are stronger ones that your doctor can prescribe for you.
Phototherapy, or therapy using special lights, has been used with some success.
Sometimes drugs that suppress the immune system are used for eczema, but these drugs have serious side effects and so these drugs are reserved for very serious cases only.
If infection occurs due to scratching or because the skin has breaks, consult your doctor right away. Antibiotics to clear up the infection are available and can prevent complications.
Eczema is no fun, but it ultimately is a relatively benign condition. With proper treatment, this condition can be managed and patients can still go about their daily lives unimpeded.