Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic skin condition that occurs when the skin becomes inflamed and irritated. Although the specific cause of eczema isn’t known, researchers believe it’s triggered by abnormalities in the way the body’s immune system performs.
Eczema symptoms are very easy to recognize and include issues like overly dry skin, flaking skin, redness, itching, scaling, and patches of rough skin that may become crusted over or weep.
Eczema sometimes goes through a cycle where symptoms “flare up” and become worse. Scratching these areas can result in cracking and bleeding, significantly increasing the risk of serious skin infections. Over time, the skin can become leathery to the touch.
No, you cannot “catch” eczema from someone else, nor can you pass it on to someone if you have eczema.
In most cases, a visual exam and a review of the patient’s symptoms and medical history are all that are needed to diagnose eczema. In a few cases, a tiny sample of skin cells may be removed for further analysis to rule out the presence of other conditions. Eczema tends to occur more often among people with asthma or allergies, so it’s important to mention those issues and to include them in a medical history during the office exam.
Mild to moderate cases of eczema may be treated with over-the-counter products to reduce irritation and keep skin lubricated. In most cases though, prescription topical medications are needed to reduce symptoms and relieve itching and irritation, especially when symptoms are intense. Prescription moisturizing products are also available. Although eczema is a benign skin condition, it can lead to infection if the area is scratched and sores develop or bleeding occurs. Any time an unusual change or symptoms occurs in the skin, it’s critically important to have a doctor’s evaluation to confirm a diagnosis so the most appropriate care can be provided.
Eczema is commonly triggered by:
Patients can reduce their chances of having a flare-up by moisturizing the skin and avoiding long baths or hot showers that can cause skin to dry out. Dr. Shore recommends using products made for sensitive skin and avoiding products with harsh detergents or other harsh chemicals.
*Individual Results May Vary
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