Why Is My Skin Red and Itchy? Do I Have Eczema?
For most people, dry, red, itchy skin is the annoying byproduct of cold weather, hot water, or irritating products like soap or body products—or maybe even grandma’s knitted wool sweater. Apply a little moisturizer, and boom! Gone! But when should you start to worry if you are still scratching all day looking redder than a tomato at the state fair even after lathering yourself with the thickest cream you can find? Unfortunately, there are so many different things that can cause your skin to become red, inflamed, and itchy. It is time to take a trip to the dermatologist.
Types of Eczema and Skin Condition
Dermatitis is the medical term for extremely dry skin, but there are several different types. Most types can be remedied with topical prescription steroids and some lifestyle modifications. The most common form of dermatitis is atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions that is treated by dermatologists and is also the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed and red. Millions of patients from birth to adulthood are diagnosed every year with eczema, and it can range from mild to severe. The most common appearance of eczema is when the skin becomes itchy and inflamed; it has the appearance of a red rash. It is not contagious so do not worry! While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, research has found that it occurs because of an aggressive immune response to environmental triggers.
Eczema can occur anywhere on the body. Children with eczema usually have a rash along their arms, in their elbow folds, behind their knees, or on the face and scalp, particularly the cheeks. In adults, eczema can also appear on the face, backs of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet. The most important thing to remember about eczema is that it is different for every person and may appear in different areas of the body at different times.
Causes of Eczema
One of the most common triggers to eczema is just plain dry skin. When the skin is not retaining optimal hydration levels, it inevitably dries out and becomes scaly or rough, which can lead to a flare up. It is incredibly important to ensure that your skin is properly hydrated to avoid an eczema flare. Important steps to take include avoiding hot water; shower rather than bathe; patting the skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing; and using a ceramide-based cream to retain water in the skin. Different irritants in products can also aggravate eczema. These include certain metals, soaps and fragrances, household cleaning and disinfecting products, and chemicals contained in glues, dyes, and personal care products.
While there is no cure for eczema, it can be treated and managed. Most patients can manage their eczema by implementing lifestyle changes like adjusting bathing habits and using non-irritating soaps and detergents, as well as incorporating recommended over the counter and prescription treatments to manage flares. More severe cases of eczema may require stronger prescription therapies like biological injectables and oral immunosuppressant medications to stop or limit the immune response that triggers an eczema flare.There are also other conditions that are related to eczema. Have you ever heard of the term “comorbidities”? It means that two chronic illness can live in the body at the same time. The most talked about common comorbidities are diabetes and hypertension. However, people with eczema are found to have several comorbidities that can contribute to flares of dry, itchy skin, most commonly asthma and allergies (either environmental, food, or both).
The most important things to remember about treating eczema is that you are not alone! Over 30 million Americans are living with some form of eczema. The most important goals of treating eczema are controlling the itch, healing the skin, lessening flares, and preventing infections. Your dermatologist will help you to create a plan to know your triggers so you can avoid flares, implement lifestyle modifications to provide comfort, and manage symptoms with consistent use of over the counter and prescription medications.
You do not have to live scratching away all day! Make an appointment today.
While we are doing our best to protect one another, it is important that we take the time to take care of ourselves. Call or go online today to schedule an appointment to achieve healthy skin.