Almost everyone has experienced skin irritation in some form in their lifetime. Our skin is the largest organ of the body and is vulnerable to a variety of skin diseases. Eczema, also known as Atopic dermatitis (AD), is a condition where your immune system overworks, causing itchy, dry, irritated skin. The word eczema actually means irritated skin, so it’s the perfect term to describe this frustrating skin condition.
Factors that Contribute to Eczema
Your skin is the barrier to irritants from the outside world. If your skin barrier is not intact, you are more likely to suffer from eczema. The cause of this could be from outside factors, such as washing with irritating soaps that cause cracks in the skin. Additionally, people with atopic dermatitis have immune systems that may overreact to otherwise harmless contacts, such as fragrances. If you have allergies (such as hay fever) and asthma, you have a greater chance of getting eczema. Eczema also occurs more often in polluted areas and cities. In addition, it is more common if other members of your family are affected, such as your parents or siblings.
Children and Eczema
Eczema is common in children, and the itching can be so intense that they can’t sleep. Children often develop the rash in their first year, but it can also develop between two years of age and puberty. The rash appears as scaly, dry patches all over the skin. Often, these patches are found on the cheeks and creases in the body, such as the arm folds, or behind the knees. A sign that your child has eczema is that they rub their skin against carpeting, bedding, or other material to relieve the itching. Too much scratching can open the skin to infections, such as Staph, that will further irritate the skin.
The rash eventually turns into rough, itchy patches. Over time, the skin can also:
Thicken from scratching the skin constantly (similar to a callus)
Darken or lighten in areas that are affected by the rash
Become bumpy, much like goosebumps
Unfortunately, the skin sometimes itches even when the child may not have an obvious rash. This is called the itch-scratch cycle. Scratching excites nerves and causes inflammation, which causes the skin to be itchier. It is important to learn the triggers so you can stop the itch-scratch cycle before it progresses.
Several things can trigger AD flare-ups. They include:
Pet saliva and dander
Clothes that itch (non-cotton fabrics)
Any type of stress on the body, such as the flu, a cold or cough
Home cleaning products
When treating eczema, you must choose the right products. Focus on soaps and lotions that are fragrance-free. It is important to know that “unscented” is not the same, as this could mean that a certain combination of potentially irritating scented chemicals are added to clear scents. We recommend using plenty of fragrance-free moisturizers, especially right after the bath or shower. These moisturizers help strengthen the skin barrier, to make it less susceptible to irritants.
If your eczema is not responding to common over the counter remedies, it is important to see your board certified dermatologist for an evaluation. Additional treatments can include topical steroids and anti-inflammatories that are safer to use on sensitive areas of the body. These anti-inflammatories are sometimes called “immune modulators” such as Elidel and Protopic. There is also a new product called Eucrisa that is gaining in popularity for certain types of eczema, such as hand eczema. Topical and oral antibiotics can often help with flares associated with a superimposed skin infection, which can be due to openings in the skin from excessive scratching.
Because the immune system is over-reacting in eczema patients, severe rashes may need oral immune suppressants and oral steroids. There is also a new medicine called Dupixent that works to block inflammation in those with severe atopic dermatitis or asthma.
Anyone that has ever experienced intense itching from skin irritation understands just how devastating a skin condition like eczema can be on your whole body. It causes social anxiety because of the rashes and skin changes. Eczema is also very uncomfortable, causing difficulty sleeping or concentrating, which can affect school and work performance.
If you are suffering from itchy, dry skin make an appointment with us at Siperstein Dermatology Group today to learn how to improve your skin and stop itching!Filed under Skin Care