Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a relatively common skin condition that’s characterized by dry, itchy skin that may look red and scaly. Eczema is a blanket term used for many kinds of itchy rashes. Eczema can be acute or chronic and may be limited to one part of the body or it may be widespread. Atopic dermatitis is common in babies, but it can develop at any age.
What causes eczema?
Eczema often has a genetic component, but may have different causes, including:
- Allergies: The same allergens that cause respiratory symptoms in some can case atopic eczema in others. Common allergens include food, pollen, mold, dust, and pets.
- Temperature fluctuations: Eczema is typically worse in the wintertime, although some patients also notice an increase in symptoms in hot weather or after exercising.
- Stress: The connection between stress and eczema isn’t well understood, but some people say they experience a worsening of symptoms during periods of high stress or anxiety.
- Chemical irritants: We are in contact with chemicals every day when bathing, cleaning, cooking, and working. Most everyday chemicals aren’t harmful, but can trigger eczema in sensitive individuals. Common triggers include fragrances and dyes found in soaps or detergents, cosmetics, and even some foods.
Although eczema on its own is not dangerous, it can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes, eczema’s itch can be so intense that it causes patients to scratch until the point of bleeding, leading to potential infection and worsening symptoms. This cycle cannot be broken without effective treatment.
Although there is no cure for eczema, eczema can be managed in many ways including avoidance of triggers, maintaining skin’s moisture, prescription topical medications, injectables, and lifestyle adjustments. Dr. McDaniel will customize a treatment plan that is right for you.
Other types of dermatitis include:
- Contact dermatitis, resulting from touching a trigger or irritant, such as soap, frangrances, and certain fragrances to name a few
- Nummular eczema characterized by circular-shaped, itchy lesions on the skin
- Dyshidrotic eczema, which appears as blisters or pustules on the hands and soles of the feet
- Seborrheic dermatitis that appears in places with oil-producing glands such as the nose and scalp
- Stasis dermatitis that appears on the legs on the skin over varicose veins
For more information on eczema, visit aad.org.