What You Need to Know About Eczema
Anna K. Fryxell
It’s estimated that 35 million Americans suffer from eczema, also known as the “itch that rashes.” Specifically, it affects about one to three percent of adults and about 10 to 20 percent of children. Eczema can range from mild dry and flaky skin to severe red and irritated skin. Regardless of the severity, it’s a condition that constantly needs attention.
“Eczema is caused by an imbalance of the immune system in skin, leading to inflammation, redness and itching,” says Miami dermatologist Oscar Hevia, MD. Eczema is seen in all skin types, ethnicities and genders, but it’s more common in fair skin than in dark skin.
“It’s an inflammatory process and it’s usually caused by your genes,” says West Palm Beach, FL, dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD. “Interestingly, it may be associated with asthma, hay fever and other allergic diseases.” While most people show signs of eczema as a child, it can also show up later in life. “It may be triggered later in life by living in a dry environment that causes the skin to crack and be exposed to environmental allergens.”
Other triggers include fragrances found in fabric softeners and soaps, stress and certain foods. “Diet affects eczema by exacerbating an underlying condition,” says Dr. Beer. “For some people, they can see flares after eating certain food such as strawberries, raspberries or foods that have certain preservatives or dyes.”
To treat is, use fragrance- and dye-free moisturizers as your first line of defense. On top of that, topical steroids are often necessary to help ease eczema. There are also oral antibiotics and steroids you can take to help keep it under control. “Patients with eczema should also avoid over bathing and keep the skin well-hydrated with creams and ointments,” says Dr. Hevia.
Do you have eczema? What skin-care products do you use?