Eczema is a chronic skin disease affecting nearly 30 million patients across the United States. When suffering from eczema, patients typically experience bouts of dryness and itchiness. The intensity of the symptoms varies from mild to severe.
While there is no known cure for eczema, there are ways of reducing the severity of your symptoms. Prescription medications help manage the inflammation and irritation you experience once diagnosed, though these symptoms do not disappear entirely after being treated.
Most patients report experiencing a flare-up of eczema symptoms at random intervals. These flare-ups come with increased irritation and stronger symptoms. Patients experience various irritants throughout the day, many directly contributing to the probability of an eczema flare-up.
One of the most effective ways to avoid future flareups is to find and avoid potential triggers. Speak with your medical provider to determine how to identify the potential triggers for an outbreak. In addition to avoiding triggers, there are other treatment methods to help reduce or outright eliminate eczema episodes.
What causes eczema?
Eczema cannot be attributed to one cause or source. Reactions are brought on by a combination of factors, such as family history, immunity-related factors and environmental irritants. Children who develop eczema are more likely to experience outbreaks into adulthood, though a small percentage of children grow out of their symptoms over time.
Infants are susceptible to developing eczema as well. Monitoring your child through his or her earliest years helps identify the problem as early as possible, giving you a better chance of identifying triggers and developing treatments. Common symptoms of eczema in both infants and adults include:
- Skin inflammation.
- Oozing on the surface of the skin.
- Darkly colored skin patches.
These symptoms appear on various parts of the body, including the face, legs, chest and arms. Children commonly develop eczema on their faces, primarily the cheeks and chin, before experiencing outbreaks in other areas. While it is believed families can pass eczema down to younger generations, eczema itself is not contagious.
Patients who have allergies or have been diagnosed with asthma are more likely to develop eczema because of their condition.
What triggers eczema flare-ups?
Eczema symptoms are typically managed through medical treatment combined with patient education regarding triggers. A flare-up occurs when an outside irritant enhances your eczema symptoms.
Stress plays a role in your eczema flare-ups as well, as some patients are susceptible to experiencing a heightened level of skin irritation when they are experiencing high levels of stress. Environmental irritants, such as dry weather during the warmer months, may also lead to eczema flare-ups and are more difficult to prevent than other triggers. Patients with eczema experience flare-ups during the winter months once the air becomes drier.
This causes the skin to become dry, which may activate an outbreak. The treatment you receive for your eczema depends on the irritants you experience. Your treatment is further altered depending on what triggers your flare-up. For example, some patients experience an eczema flare-up when sweating or when they are too hot, while other patients experience a flare-up while using a new cleaning product.
Identifying your triggers is a trial-and-error process, as you do not know what irritates you until the interaction occurs. If someone in your family also suffers from eczema, speak with him or her to get an idea for his or her triggers, as you may share the same triggers.
Once you identify the cause of your flare-ups, take preventive measures to reduce the interaction you have with these triggers. Managing your exposure to the elements and finding products without harsh chemicals are recommended forms of prevention.
At-Home Eczema Treatment
If you experience flare-ups in the cool, dry weather, adopt a daily skincare routine. Use a moisturizer immediately following a bath or a shower and repeat this moisturizing routine a second time before the end of the day. By fully moisturizing twice per day, you prevent your skin from becoming dried out.
Additionally, moisturizers help maintain the overall health of your skin, which can lessen the flare-ups you encounter with your eczema. When toweling after bathing or showering, tapping the skin dry, as opposed to wiping, is also a recommended technique to keep eczema from flaring.
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Another strategy is to adjust the type of products you use if you notice increased irritation through repeated usage. Patients frequently develop eczema flare-ups from different detergents, such as ones used for clothing or soaps used to wash your dishes. Try several detergent variants to see if one creates a harsher effect than others and keep track of the active ingredients in each detergent. You may find one specific chemical is the source of the outbreak.
Stronger Treatment Options
In addition to managing your environmental triggers, treatment options for eczema are available as medical prescriptions. Topical treatments such as oral antihistamines and corticosteroids are often prescribed to manage the most severe eczema symptoms.
If your eczema retains a heightened level of severity, ask your doctor about injectionable drugs used to treat skin inflammation. These injections, often referred to as biologics, reduce the immune system’s response to irritants. When you have an eczema flare-up, your immune system is sent into a heightened state where the skin no longer behaves as it does normally. When this happens, you begin to experience eczema symptoms.
By receiving controlled injections, you effectively suppress your immune system to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring once you contact an irritant. The overall success of the injection varies from patient to patient.
Immunosuppressants work similarly to biologics. These medications prevent the immune system’s response to an irritant or environmental trigger. Phototherapy and natural remedies, such as coconut oil, sunflower oil and topical vitamin B-12 are effective in reducing eczema symptoms in both children and adults.
Additionally, medical experts recommended avoiding taking a hot shower or bath, as these are common triggers for eczema. Choose cool or warm water while bathing to reduce your flare-ups. In addition, keep your bathing time to a minimum, as prolonged exposure to water increases your irritability.
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