Also called “dermatitis,” eczema 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 may be 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 person. Intense itching is the most common symptom, which can lead to severe discomfort and/or 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 over-reaction 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, jewelry, and detergents
- Avoid sudden changes in temperatures, as over-heating 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 a board certified dermatologist. If you are diagnosed with eczema, the 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. If you or a loved one are struggling with eczema, contact Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center at (540) 341-1900 to schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Dermatology Specialists for help.