If you’re dealing with eczema, then you know just how frustrating this condition can be. You’re also probably sick and tired of dealing with the unpredictable symptoms that seem to encroach on your lifestyle. But what are you supposed to do?
What is Eczema?
More than 31 million Americans deal with some form of eczema. It often begins during early childhood, but can also emerge at any time during adolescence or even adulthood. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.
“Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes itchiness, dry skin, rashes, scaly patches, blisters and skin infections,” The National Eczema Association explains. “Itchy skin is the most common symptom of eczema. There are seven different types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis.”
People with eczema often discuss the condition in terms of “flare-ups.” These are periods of time when at least one acute symptom or side effect becomes exacerbated. Typically, these flare-ups are associated with prolonged and excessive itchiness. This may last for several days or weeks.
People with eczema often report a variety of comorbid symptoms like asthma and food allergies. Symptoms are most commonly experienced in the flexural areas of the body where skin rubs together (behind the knees, lower legs, or elbows).
Eczema Treatment Options and Tips
If you’re dealing with eczema, it’s helpful to know what your treatment options are and how you can reduce the likelihood of a flare-up. Here are several tips:
- Know Your Triggers
Eczema can be caused by a number of different factors or external conditions. Certain factors cause flare-ups in some people but not in others. Even two individuals with severe eczema can be set off by different factors. The most important thing you can do is understand your specific triggers. Common ones include:
- Prolonged exposure to extreme elements (like heat, cold, or even dry air)
- Certain types of shampoo, soap, body wash, or facial cleaners (specific ingredients)
- Fabric softeners and laundry detergents with certain chemical additives
- Surfaces cleaners and disinfectants with harsh chemicals
- Specific fabrics like polyester or wool (found in clothing or bedding)
- Fragrances in candles
- Liquids from meat, fruit, or vegetable juice
- Metals in utensils or jewelry (especially nickel)
- Paraphenylene-diamine (found in temporary tattoos and leather dyes)
- Formaldehyde (found in vaccines, household disinfectants, glues, adhesives, etc.)
In some situations, emotional stress and prolonged anxiety can lead to flare-ups. It’s unclear why this happens, but is likely due to the way stress suppresses the immune system and makes the body more susceptible to broad health issues.
- Consult With a Dermatologist
Most people begin their journey with eczema by seeing their primary care doctor. However, if you really want to get the best treatment, you’ll need to see a specialist.
According to London Dermatology Clinic, “Eczema treatment is best managed by a consultant dermatologist and so if you are looking for eczema treatment a dermatology clinic is the right place to start.”
Though millions of people have an eczema diagnosis, no two situations are the same. Your dermatologist will ask you questions, learn your symptoms, and attempt to better understand your triggers so a specific treatment plan can be initiated.
- Try Medication
Eczema medication is designed to alleviate symptoms (though it doesn’t do much to address the underlying cause or condition). Corticosteroids come in a variety of creams, solutions, gels, ointments, and foams. They relieve itching and often reduce inflammation. There are both over the counter hydrocortisone medications and prescription options as well.
- Light Therapy
If you have serious eczema that doesn’t get better with time or normal treatment, you may be a candidate for light therapy. (This is also an effective option for those who quickly flare up after a more standard treatment.)
Light therapy involves exposing the skin to a controlled amount of natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B. It’s often performed in tandem with medication. While highly effective, light therapy is not without risks and side effects. For this reason, it’s typically not used on young children or infants.
Enjoy Healthy, Comfortable Skin
Everyone deserves to be healthy and comfortable in their skin. If you’re currently struggling with eczema and unwanted symptoms associated with this frustrating condition, it’s time to fight back. As mentioned above, always consult with an experienced dermatologist to get specific feedback and treatment options around your unique circumstances.