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Diseases & Conditions

Eczema: Causes and Symptoms of this Common Skin Condition

4 Mins read

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common condition that causes the skin to become itchy and inflamed, especially on the hands and wrists, elbows, knees, face, neck, and scalp.

It’s most common in infants and children under age 2 but can persist into adulthood in some people.

There are several known causes of eczema including an overactive immune system response that creates redness and swelling along with causing dryness of the skin.

Causes of Eczema

 1) Allergies

Eczema can be caused by allergies. If you are sensitive to certain foods, chemicals, or pollen, you might develop a rash when exposed to them.

If your eczema only occurs when exposed to one thing, the allergy may be triggering your skin condition.

In addition to avoiding whatever causes eczema for you, keep in mind that food allergies often cause stomach upset or itching and these symptoms may appear before a visible reaction on your skin.

The best way to figure out what is causing eczema is by visiting an allergist who can perform blood tests and take skin biopsies under a microscope to determine exactly what you are allergic to.

2) Damp Hands and Feet

If you often feel like your hands and feet are sweating, or if you wear socks only to take them off a short time later because they’re too damp, chances are high that you have eczema.

The characteristic symptoms of eczema include dry, itchy patches on the skin; typically (though not always) these areas become red and irritated.

Over-hydration can exacerbate your symptoms, so make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated without increasing sweating from your extremities.

3) Stress

Eczema sufferers often find that stress makes their condition worse. Work and family issues, as well as low sleep levels, can trigger flare-ups.

The good news is that stress management can help you control eczema symptoms. Also, keep in mind that not all stressors are bad; exercise and other activities may even lower your risk for eczema and other conditions like asthma and type 2 diabetes.

Try not to overreact to stressful situations. Some people with eczema find relief from things like meditation or yoga.

4) Heredity (genetics)

While researchers aren’t exactly sure why people with certain genes are more prone to eczema, it is clear that certain conditions can trigger a flare-up.

For example, if someone with eczema has an allergic reaction to pollen, their skin will react accordingly.

If someone washes their hands frequently and then touches something nearby (such as a pet), there could be a chance that they’ll have an allergic reaction which sets off the eczema flare-up.

If you know you have allergies, try avoiding your triggers. And if possible, wear gloves when doing chores or touching animals (or anything else) so your hands don’t come into contact with allergens.

5) Weak Immune System

When your immune system is weak, you’re much more likely to suffer from infections and skin conditions.

You may have weakened your immunity by taking medications or having a disease. Whether you do or don’t already have an infection, consider strengthening your immunity with foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

These include blueberries, pomegranates, salmon, whole grains, and dark chocolate. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated—especially when it’s hot outside!

6) Smoking Tobacco Products.

Smoking can lead to a host of skin conditions, including acne and eczema. Nicotine is an irritant, so those who smoke are more susceptible to drying and chapping.

The chemicals in cigarettes can also exacerbate existing skin conditions such as eczema. Eczema is typically caused by environmental factors such as excessive sun exposure or food allergies (see below).

Smoking only makes these triggers worse. It’s best for those with eczema to avoid smoking at all costs. Talk to your doctor about options for treatment or quitting if you do decide to quit smoking on your own.

Symptoms of Eczema

1) Dry skin

In eczema, skin tends to stay dry, making it more susceptible to itching and irritation. With eczema, it’s not just about how often you moisturize.

You need to use products that deliver deep hydration and lock it in. That will help prevent moisture from escaping from your skin and keep it smooth and supple.

That way, when you do moisturize, your skin will soak up water like a sponge instead of repelling or retaining it like a brick wall—which is what happens with eczema-prone skin.

2) Itchy skin

Eczema, which affects millions of people around the world, can cause itchy skin. Sometimes, even scratching or rubbing your skin can be irritating, causing bumps and sores that make your eczema worse.

Eczema is often characterized by redness, flaking, and oozing skin, but there are several different types; however, they all have itching as a common symptom.

Itching may occur in different parts of your body depending on what kind of eczema you have (atopic dermatitis, nummular eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis).

In atopic dermatitis and nummular eczema cases, itching typically occurs in affected areas such as folds in your elbows and knees.

3) Red Rashes

Eczema can be a complicated skin condition since it has so many potential causes. However, one symptom that’s common among patients with eczema is red rashes.

These rashes are often dry and scaly and can occur anywhere on your body. Dermatologists recommend avoiding harsh cleansers that may irritate your skin; instead, opt for a gentle soap or body wash to keep your skin clean without irritating it further.

If you’re looking for an ointment or cream to help soothe itching, try Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleanser or Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel to help address issues in those particular areas while leaving your skin smooth and moisturized elsewhere.

4) Bumps on the Skin

When bumps and patches appear on your skin, it’s not unusual to assume that you have an infection like ringworm or athlete’s foot.

However, when those bumps are red and scratchy and you don’t have any other symptoms, then chances are that you have eczema.

Eczema is a chronic condition that causes patches of dry skin (itchy rashes), which can be unsightly but is treatable with topical steroids and moisturizers.

If left untreated, though, eczema can lead to infection—and sometimes even discoloration or scarring on your skin.

5) Scaly, Leathery Patches of Skin

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic condition marked by red, inflamed skin and often accompanied by dryness.

People suffering from eczema typically have patches of scaly, leathery skin anywhere on their bodies. The severity varies widely between sufferers.

Some people experience mild itching in localized areas for just a few weeks out of every year; others experience widespread outbreaks with intense itching that never subsides.

Eczema can be triggered by external factors like stress or extreme weather conditions but is also largely genetic, meaning it can run in families and develop even when no triggers are present.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema yet and treatment involves managing symptoms while avoiding outside irritants that could potentially set off an outbreak.

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