Eczema: Symptoms, Causes, and Effective Treatments

Eczema: Discover the symptoms, causes, and effective treatments for this skin condition. Get relief from itchy, red, and inflamed skin with expert guidance.

Eczema is a widespread skin condition known for unpleasant symptoms. These include itchiness, rashes, dry patches, and, sometimes, infection. As a form of dermatitis, it belongs to a set of skin irritants. The most encountered type is known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. The intense urge to scratch is a key symptom. Unfortunately, scratching itchy skin only escalates the problem.1 More than 31 million in the U.S. are affected. “Flare-ups” present as periods of increased symptoms. They can last for days or weeks. It’s important to note that eczema’s appearance varies by individual. Plus, flare-ups may not recur in the same spots.

Key Takeaways

  • Eczema is a common skin condition that causes itchy, red, and inflamed skin.
  • The most common type is atopic dermatitis, which affects over 9.6 million children and 16.5 million adults in the U.S.1
  • Eczema can begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and range from mild to severe.1
  • Severe eczema can lead to lengthy flare-ups and even hospitalization if left untreated.1
  • Eczema can also cause complications like food allergies and asthma.1

What is Eczema?

Eczema is actually a group of skin problems. They make your skin itch, look dry, get rashes, form scales or blisters, and can even get infected.2 Your immune system is usually to blame, overreacting and causing these flare-ups.2

Definition of Eczema

Eczema is often called atopic dermatitis. It’s a long-term issue that bothers millions all over the world.1 Having it means your skin feels dry, itches a lot, and looks inflamed. This can really lower your life’s quality.2

Types of Eczema

There’s more than one type of eczema, each with its features and things that trigger it. Some common kinds are atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis.2 But no matter the type, they all lead to inflamed skin and can happen over and over again.2

Prevalence of Eczema

Eczema impacts a lot of people, over 31 million in the U.S. alone.1 The most seen type, atopic dermatitis, affects a big number of kids and adults there.1 Another kind, neurodermatitis, affects around 12% of people.1 Anyone can get eczema at any time in their life, and it can be mild or really severe.1

Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema shows itself with dry, itchy skin that causes discomfort.2 Rashes and skin discoloration can happen,3 along with swelling and crusty skin.3

The rash’s color varies based on skin tone.2 In infants, it leads to oozing and crusting, mainly on the face and scalp.3 For children, it’s common in the elbows and knees, which then turns scaly and dry.2

Adults may get a rash on the face, knees, or hands, with the skin becoming very dry.2

Dry, Itchy Skin

The hallmark sign of eczema is dry, itchy skin.2 It causes intense itching and can lead to more irritation if scratched.2

Rashes and Skin Discoloration

Eczema often looks like a red, inflamed rash, causing skin discoloration.3 The rash takes on different colors based on skin tone.2

Swelling and Crusting

Sometimes, eczema leads to swelling and crusty, oozing skin.3 Infants are especially prone to this, with rashes on their face and scalp.2

Eczema Symptoms

Causes of Eczema

Eczema can be started by many things, like a too-active immune system and genetics. Also, what’s in the air can make it worse.2

Immune System Dysfunction

Your immune system plays a big role. If it overreacts to things it shouldn’t, your skin can get red, itchy, and inflamed.2

Genetic Factors

Genes are a key part too. If your family has eczema, asthma, or hay fever, you might get it too.2

Environmental Triggers

External things can also make eczema come up. This includes dry air, cold or hot weather, some clothes, soaps, and even stress.2

Knowing about these causes helps people manage their eczema better.21

Eczema and Skin Color

Eczema looks different on each skin type. Lighter skin tones often show a red or pink rash. For darker skin tones, the rash can look purple, brown, or gray.4

Appearance on Light Skin Tones

On lighter skin, the rash might be very red, pink, or purple. It stands out a lot. The skin can be dry, scaly, and irritated.4

Appearance on Dark Skin Tones

Darker skin tones can have a rash in shades of purple, brown, or gray. Sometimes, it looks like tiny goosebumps. The itchiness can be strong, and the skin might be drier. It could also change colors.4

Eczema Skin Appearance

Eczema in Infants and Children

Infant eczema, also known as pediatric or childhood eczema, is common. About 13% of U.S. children under 18 have it.5 This itchy rash often oozes and crusts, mostly on the face and scalp. It can also appear on their arms, legs, back, and chest.5 Newborns might show signs within their first weeks or months.5

The rash may show up in different spots as children get older. It often causes scaly, dry skin. Especially in the bends of elbows, behind knees, or on necks, wrists, or ankles.5 Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, usually starts in the first six months up to five years.5 Kids from families with a history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever are at a higher risk.5

This condition can lead to itchy skin, rashes, and a weakened skin barrier.5 Common triggers include certain cleansers, soaps, and dry air.5 In toddlers, the rash might be seen in elbow creases, on wrists, etc.5 Eczema in infants is also frequent on the face and scalp.5

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Helping with eczema often needs using both over-the-counter and prescription meds.5 Daily baths, proper moisturizing, and avoiding triggers are key.5 Doctors might prescribe steroids or antihistamines to lessen itching and swelling.5 Though there isn’t a cure, treatments can ease symptoms and reduce flare-ups.5

Eczema in Adults

The3 rash often shows up on the face, and on the backs of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet in grown-ups. The skin in these places might feel very dry, thick, or scaly. If you have light skin, these areas could first look red and then brown. Darker-skinned people might see changes in their skin color where eczema appears, either getting lighter or darker.3 Flare-ups can stick around for a few days to even a few weeks.

1 Over 31 million Americans have eczema, with1 atopic dermatitis being the top type. It troubles around 16.5 million adults in the U.S.1 Eczema might hit harder in black Americans, leading to more severe symptoms.

3 Adult eczema tends to crop up in patches on skin areas that rub or sweat a lot.3 For some, atopic dermatitis links to gene changes that impact the skin’s protective ability.

3 Those with atopic dermatitis might have trouble sleeping and face issues like depression and anxiety.1 Feeling stressed emotionally could set off eczema episodes.

Risk Factors for Eczema

Several things can cause or make eczema worse. These include having someone in your family with eczema, your age, and stress.6

Family History

Eczema can run in families because of genetics. If you have family members with eczema, asthma, or hay fever, you might get it too.7

Age

Most people get eczema when they are kids. But it can also appear in adults, especially between the ages of 20 and over 50.7

Interestingly, children born to older moms might have a higher risk of eczema. Yet, we’re not sure why this happens.7

Stress and Emotional Well-being

Stress can make eczema worse by triggering flare-ups. This happens because stress can make the body’s inflammation go up.6

Conditions like stress, depression, or PTSD can also lead to more inflammation. This can, in turn, aggravate eczema.6

Eczema Triggers and Flare-ups

Eczema is a long-term skin issue. It can vary in how bad and how often it shows up. Many things in the environment, what you eat, and how you feel can make eczema worse. It’s key to know about these things to handle eczema well.6

Environmental Triggers

Dry weather, improper fabrics, strong skincare products, smoke, and dirty air can start eczema problems.2 Hard weather like cold and wet or hot and humid places can make eczema symptoms more common.6 Things like smoke, unclean air, and materials such as wool can also make eczema worse.2

Food Allergies

For some, eating foods they’re allergic to, like peanuts, milk, and eggs, can make eczema bad.2 Things they touch, food allergies, and even hay fever might make eczema worse, showing how linked eczema and allergies are.6

Stress and Emotional Triggers

How you feel and how calm you are matter a lot for eczema. Stress and feeling low, like with sadness, make eczema worse.6 Feeling stressed, worried, or low can bring on more episodes of eczema.2 Learning how to relax, exercise, and do things you enjoy helps keep eczema episodes in check.6

Knowing what sets off your eczema can help you stay ahead. It can make your symptoms not as bad and flare-ups less often.62

Is Eczema Contagious?

No, eczema doesn’t pass from one person to another.8 People get eczema from a mix of their genes and the world around them.8 It’s not like a cold or the flu that you can catch by touching or being near someone with it. Eczema comes from a mix of family traits and outside factors, not a germ spread by touching.

Also, it doesn’t matter if someone you know has eczema. It doesn’t mean you’ll get it by touching them.2 So, if you or someone you know has eczema, there’s no need to worry about spreading it to others. It’s not something that jumps from one person to the next by touch or close contact.

Talk to your doctor about how to manage eczema. They can help you or your loved one understand the best ways to deal with it. Remember, it’s not something you need to be afraid of catching by being around someone with it. This can make it easier for everyone to know more about eczema and how to care for those who have it.

Preventing Eczema Flare-ups

It’s important to keep your skin healthy and moist to prevent eczema.9 Eczema can be triggered by dry skin. You can use things like humidifiers, ointments, and special bath products. This helps your skin stay moist.10 Using moisturizers often can help control eczema and lower the chances of having flare-ups.11

Avoiding Irritants

Figuring out and staying away from what bothers your skin is vital.9 Harsh soaps, some fabrics, and things like dust or pet dander can make eczema worse. This is along with very hot or cold temperatures.10 Washing new clothes and other items before you use them can prevent skin troubles. Also, wear clothes that are soft and not too tight to avoid irritating your skin. Choose natural materials when possible. This can reduce the chances of a flare-up.

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Stress Management

9 Stress and worry can trigger eczema. When the body reacts to stress, it can make the skin more inflamed. This makes eczema symptoms worse.11 To prevent flare-ups, find ways to manage stress. This can include exercises that connect your mind and body, talking with a therapist, or making changes in your daily life.9 Getting enough sleep and finding time to relax are also key steps in reducing stress and keeping eczema under control.

Eczema and Mental Health

There’s a strong link between eczema and mental health. Although eczema isn’t directly caused by stress, anxiety, and depression, these emotions can trigger a physical response. This response is inflammation, which can worsen eczema flare-ups.

On the flip side, eczema can increase the risk of developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In fact, studies show that over 30% of adults with eczema also deal with depression, anxiety, or both.

As for children, those with eczema are two to six times more likely to have anxiety, depression, or ADHD than those without eczema. This shows a strong connection between eczema and negative mental health impacts in both adults and kids.12

The National Institute of Mental Health lists depression symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more. These include sadness, hopelessness, and interest loss. Also, effects like mood changes from asthma drug montelukast can be signs of anxiety and depression. If you face these, it’s wise to see a doctor.12

Relaxation techniques work differently for each person. Some techniques include deep breathing, guided meditation, and creative activities. For a group effort, consider joining an eczema support group offered by the National Eczema Association. This can connect you with others who understand your struggles.12

Getting good sleep is crucial for people with eczema. Tips include taking antihistamines before bed and enjoying calming baths. Making your sleeping space cozy helps too. These steps can improve your skin condition and mental well-being.12

Eating habits play a role in eczema management. Eating anti-inflammatory or probiotic foods could help. But, before you change your diet, it’s best to talk to a healthcare professional. They can advise the best approach for you.12

Staying active is important for all around health. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise. This, along with muscle-strengthening routines, is beneficial. Over 31 million people in the US struggle with eczema. Staying active is especially helpful for them.12

Effective Treatments for Eczema

There is no cure for eczema yet. But, many treatments can and do help. They manage the symptoms and stop the flare-ups.13 There are a lot of new treatments for eczema being developed now. This shows that researchers are working hard to find new and better solutions.13

Topical Medications

One kind of treatment is the use of creams or ointments. They include corticosteroids, which lessen swelling and itchiness.13 Doctors can also prescribe other types of topicals. These include calcineurin, PDE4, and JAK inhibitors. This variety shows that treatment plans can be made to fit each person’s unique situation.1314 It’s very important to use these corticosteroids as your doctor guides you. They can, on rare occasions, cause the skin to become thin or change color.14

Oral Medications

Then there’s the option of taking medicine by mouth. This can include antihistamines and immunomodulators.1314 Antihistamines are especially good for itching. They might make you drowsy or not, depending on the type.1415 For cases of severe eczema, drugs like cyclosporine, methotrexate, and prednisone may be used. But these come with serious potential side effects. They are not for long-term use.15

Light Therapy

Phototherapy or light therapy is another avenue for treatment. It’s good for some types of eczema.15 Yet, it has some bad effects like early aging of the skin, skin color changes, and heightened risk of skin cancer.15

A mix of treatments, good skin care, and avoiding triggers can often keep eczema under control.131415

Living with Eczema

Living with eczema means adopting various strategies. A key part is having a regular and gentle skin care routine. This helps keep symptoms in check and stops them from getting worse.16 Use creams or ointments for your skin, instead of lotions. It’s important to moisturize several times a day, especially after you bath or wash your hands.16

Skin Care Routine

It’s important to choose skin products that soothe without scents.16 You can use steroid creams, over-the-counter hydrocortisone, or prescription TIMs to lessen redness and urge to scratch.16 Antihistamine pills might also help with the itching, but they could make you sleepy.16

Identifying Triggers

Finding out what makes your eczema worse is key.16 Some common triggers are certain foods, pollen, or pet dander.1617 Taking care of yourself, imagining relaxing scenes, or doing things you enjoy can really make a difference. Talking to your healthcare team is a good idea too.17

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Support and Resources

People like Kathy Sage have managed their kz>eczemakz> by finding what works for them.17 This might include using natural remedies and keeping away from things that make their eczema worse.17 Joining support groups and using resources from places like the National Eczema Association can help a lot. They offer useful info and connect you with others facing similar challenges.17 Staying mindful, trying things like Qigong, and getting creative can all help make life better despite eczema.17

Teaching people about eczema, standing up for yourself, and correcting wrong ideas about the condition are very important.17 Using apps for relaxation can also be really beneficial. They can help lower stress and increase your inner peace, which is good for anyone with eczema.17

Conclusion

Eczema is common and affects many in the US.18 There’s no cure for eczema yet, but we can manage it well.1819 We should learn about its signs, causes, and what makes it worse. This helps a lot in treating it and making life better for people with eczema.18 It’s important to team up with doctors. Together, they can help find ways to feel better and control eczema.

Recent studies have shown new things about eczema, like how it can make life hard for kids more than some other diseases.18 They also linked some gene changes to more skin and allergy issues.18 And they say we need better ways to measure how well treatments work in eczema.19 All this tells us we need to keep studying and treating eczema in different ways.

Eczema affects many, so it’s key to know what’s new in treating and stopping it. Keeping up with the latest on eczema helps doctors and patients do better at managing this long-term skin issue. It’s all about improving eczema outcomes for everyone.

FAQ

What is eczema?

Eczema is a common skin condition that leads to itchiness, rashes, and dry patches. These symptoms may also cause infections. It’s a part of a larger group of skin conditions known as dermatitis. Atopic eczema is the most common type.

What are the different types of eczema?

There are seven types. These include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and dyshidrotic eczema. Some people have nummular eczema or seborrheic dermatitis. Another type is stasis dermatitis.

How common is eczema?

Eczema affects over 31 million Americans. It can start at any age, from childhood to adulthood. The severity of the condition varies.

What are the common symptoms of eczema?

Common signs are dry, itchy skin and rashes. You might also see skin discoloration. Swelling and crusting are also typical.

What causes eczema?

It’s caused by several things. This includes an immune system that’s too active and genetic factors. Environmental triggers can also lead to eczema.

How does eczema look different on light and dark skin tones?

Eczema can look different on various skin tones. For light skin, it may look red or pink. For darker skin, it can appear as purple, brown, or gray.

How does eczema present in infants and children?

Infants often get a rash on their face and scalp. It can be itchy and even ooze. For older kids and teens, it often shows up in certain areas like their elbows or knees.

How does eczema present in adults?

In adults, the rash can appear on the face or the backs of the knees and hands. It can also be on the feet or wrists. The skin may feel very dry or scaly.

What are the risk factors for eczema?

Common risk factors include a family history of eczema and related conditions. These conditions include asthma and hay fever. Age and emotional well-being are also factors.

What are common triggers for eczema flare-ups?

Known triggers include dry weather and certain fabrics. Skincare products, smoke, and pollutants can also affect it. Temperature changes, food allergies, and stress are other common triggers.

Is eczema contagious?

No, eczema cannot be spread from person to person. It is not contagious.

How can eczema flare-ups be prevented?

Moisturizing, avoiding irritants, and managing stress can help. These steps reduce the chances of flare-ups.

Is there a link between eczema and mental health?

Yes, there is a strong link between eczema and mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can worsen flare-ups. This is because they trigger physical reactions that make eczema worse.

What are the effective treatments for eczema?

Treatments include medications, both topical and oral. Light therapy can also be effective. It’s important to combine these with proper skin care and avoiding triggers.

How can someone with eczema manage their condition?

Managing eczema requires a consistent skin care routine. It also involves identifying and avoiding personal triggers. Seeking support from healthcare providers and organizations like the National Eczema Association is crucial.

Source Links

  1. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9998-eczema
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20353273
  4. https://nationaleczema.org/blog/eczema-in-skin-of-color/
  5. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/children/
  6. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/causes-and-triggers-of-eczema/
  7. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/eczema-causes
  8. https://nationaleczema.org/blog/eczema-is-not-contagious/
  9. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/live-better-eczema
  10. https://www.twssc.org/blog/7-tips-to-help-prevent-an-eczema-flare-up
  11. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/managing-eczema-flare-ups
  12. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema-emotional-wellness/
  13. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/
  14. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/treatment/
  15. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353279
  16. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/ss/slideshow-eczema
  17. https://nationaleczema.org/blog/how-to-live-well-eczema/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4954337/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK260248/