For those suffering from eczema, winter can bring the worst out in their skin. In honor of this rough patch for many (pun completely intended), I thought I’d run through five quick facts about eczema. Eczema’s formal name is Atopic Dermatitis, FYI.
1. Eczema has many forms. For some it’s simply itchy, dry patches of skin on their arms and lower legs, while in others it comes as itchy bumps on their fingers or dry, flaky skin on their scalp. The common thread is that a sufferer’s skin lacks a tough barrier against everyday realities like water/moisture, chemicals, irritating textures, dry air etc. Moisture in our skin makes it resilient and provides protection, and this is lacking in atopic skin.
2. Eczema has no cure. Not really an uplifting thought, but it’s important to know this if you suffer from it. Eczema is a chronic disease that can wax and wane throughout a lifetime, requiring constant attention. You must be consistent about applying moisturizer and/or topical treatments when necessary. Ignoring skin when it is not flared will most likely lead you back to a problem.
3. Yes, some people “grow out” of eczema. Most people who have Atopic Dermatitis get diagnosed when they are babies or young children. The good news is that some of these people will have their worst problems at these young ages, and don’t have many skin worries later in life. Common spots for babies to break out are their cheeks, chin and upper chest where drool and extra food tends to gather.
4. Eczema is related to other diseases. Another part of that group of eczema babies I mentioned above will have fewer skin problems later, but will suffer from asthma or breathing problems, hayfever or seasonal or environmental allergies. For these problems an allergy or lung specialist are needed to provide the right treatments.
5. Eczema is not contagious but it can get infected. Huh? You can’t catch eczema from someone; you are either born with the genetics to get it or not. However, eczema skin often does poorly at fighting off infections from bacteria or viruses. Staph is a bacteria that lives on us and everywhere, but in eczema-flared skin, it can cause major problems, requiring antibiotics and making the flare even worse. This is why some doctors will have parents put their eczema-kiddos in (very dilute) bleach baths to decrease the number of bacterial troublemakers on their skin.
I hope you have enjoyed your short fact-finding mission in the world of eczema. The National Eczema Association http://www.nationaleczema.org is just one of the great online resources available, if you want more information.