So what exactly is eczema? Well it gets a little confusing. Why so confusing you ask? The word Eczema is often loosely used to describe any type of itchy rashes. When a dermatologist refers to eczema the doctor is referring to a disease called Atopic Dermatitis that can cover the whole body, but typically affects the elbows, back of the knees and the face. Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic condition characterized by skin that is red and inflamed, cracking and peeling, potentially having weeping pustules and is accompanied by severe itching. Generally, families challenged with atopic conditions also have a family history of asthma and hay fever. The condition appears to be genetic. A child having one parent with an atopic condition has a one in four chance of developing an atopic condition themselves. If both parents have an atopic condition, the chance of incidence goes up to one in two that the child will develop an atopic condition.
Due to scratching, the skin can be easily broken causing open sores which can quickly become infected as people with Atopic Dermatitis have high amounts of staph naturally on their skin. Prolonged scratching may increase the intensity of the itching which can possibly lead to the skin becoming raw, thick and leathery _ a condition called Neurodermatitis. Permanent scarring and changes to the skin’s color can also occur due to excessive scratching. In more serious conditions the eyes can also be affected.
All is not lost. Millions of people live happy lives with minimal flare ups. The key is learning what triggers your flare ups. Flare ups can be caused by irritants such as fragrances, acidic foods or tobacco smoke, emotional stress, allergens, heat and sweating. Also be careful not to dry out your skin. Try bathing less frequently and when you do, use warm instead of hot water.Also limit baths and showers to 15-20 minutes. Try using a bath oil to seal the moisture in your skin and be sure to use a heavy moisturizer daily. For mild flare ups an over the counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can help with the itching. Most importantly, work with your health care professional to create a plan that works for you.
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