Eczema can be a very painful and downright dangerous condition, if not treated properly. If you or anyone in your family has skin rashes, they should be examined by a doctor so they can receive treatment that is timely and effective.
What Is Eczema and What Causes It?
Simply put, eczema is a chronic skin disorder that causes dry, scaly patches on the skin. This is not the same as other rashes that may come and go or be cyclical according to the weather. Those with eczema may experience symptoms their entire life and the symptoms may not be dependent on exterior conditions. It is not to be confused with everyday dry skin, as the symptoms of eczema are much more serious than just dryness.
Eczema is due to a reaction in the skin, similar to an allergy, which causes it to inflame and become dry and then to crack. If left untreated, long-term irritation can cause the skin to thicken and to have a leather-like texture.
Those who have eczema usually have other allergies, asthma, or hay fever. Exposure to water or environmental irritants, stress, and temperature changes can make eczema worse.
Symptoms and Signs of Eczema
The dry, leathery skin areas are the first signs of eczema. They are often accompanied by blisters, oozing and crusting. A patient may also have ear discharge and bleeding.
For children, the skin lesions are more typically found on the cheeks, elbows and knees, whereas for adults the rashes are more common on the inside of the knees and the elbows. However, eczema patches can occur anywhere.
The skin may seem very raw from scratching as there is intense itching that accompanies eczema. Skin coloring may also change, and there is typically inflammation around the blisters.
When to See a Doctor and Type of Specialist
If you notice a skin rash that is more than just normal dry skin, you should have this examined by a doctor. They may need to take a sample of the lesion and do a thorough exam to diagnose your condition properly. They may also want to take a history of other symptoms you have and note your family history as well.
A regular doctor can often diagnose eczema properly but a dermatologist may be better able to treat the condition.
In most cases there are no special triggers for eczema; you can notice the dry patches and inflammation at any time. However, you may be more prone to outbreaks during winter when your skin is naturally dryer and when you are exposed to harsh weather conditions. Stress can also cause more outbreaks and more painful eczema patches. Exposing your skin to irritating conditions such as dry and itchy clothing or environmental pollutants can also trigger more of an eczema outbreak. Water dries the skin as it pulls away natural moisture from the skin’s surface, so swimming or even showering can irritate the eczema and cause outbreaks. Soap and other cleansers also typically make the symptoms worse.