Eczema can be a challenge to decode; even its names can be tricky to navigate. You might find that filtering through eczema’s many quirks and causes can help get to the root of its symptoms and make it a lot less stressful.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Eczema is dermatitis, dermatitis is eczema—confusing, right? The simplest way to explain this eccentric name issue is speak plainly: eczema is the broad name of the skin condition, while dermatitis describes the primary symptom of it. Atopic dermatitis is far and away the most common form of eczema, and that’s why the two are often confused or used interchangeably. Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin. It does not need to happen with eczema.
Eczema is still a mysterious condition. Many causes are known, but little is understood about why these factors cause eczema to flare up. The most common causes include poisonous plants and harsh chemicals, fragrances, detergents, etc. (contact dermatitis). Skin dryness and things as abstract as stress can be triggers for eczema flare ups as well. Eczema affects babies and children fairly often, and it could be in part to their immature skin barrier. One eczema theory holds that eczema is caused by germs and other bacteria penetrating an underdeveloped or weak skin barrier.
Eczema’s cause might be unknown, but how it can affect people is well-known. Eczema is not a rare condition, so there are a variety of symptoms that your dermatologist knows how to treat, no matter how severe.
Eczema is in part caused by and can cause dry skin. Winter weather, poor humidity in your home or office and an inattention to moisturizing can all attribute to skin dryness. Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of the condition is characterized by incredibly dry skin.
Inflammation and redness are very normal symptoms of skin affected by eczema. Practically every type of eczema, from seborrheic dermatitis to contact dermatitis, all cause redness and inflammation, even if they crop up in different areas of the body. Seborrheic dermatitis, for example, most often appears on the face where the skin contains a higher concentration of sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands produce oil on the skin, but it’s not fully understood why eczema thrives in these regions of the skin.
Easily tied to dryness, itchiness can be extreme with eczema. In fact, itching can be so intense that skin can become infected from scratching. That’s why it’s important to avoid scratching and find the right kind of eczema treatment that targets the dryness and the itch. Drugs like hydrocortisone cream may be prescribed to help alleviate extreme itchiness and dryness. If infection occurs, oozing or crusting can occur in the skin as a result of pus accumulating in the skin. At this point, antibiotics would be prescribed for the infection.
Skin sometimes becomes so dry that it flakes or becomes scaly. Eczema sometimes results in a build-up of layers of skin that should have naturally sloughed off. If this happens, eczema can take on a silvery-white, almost scaly appearance. This is not uncommon with a more severe form of atopic dermatitis.
Ultimately, treating your eczema depends on your symptoms and their severity. Understanding your eczema symptoms and sharing them with you dermatologist during your consultation is key to get the treatment you need. If you’re sick and tired of eczema or suspect you or your child might be developing it, call a New England Dermatology expert today.
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