What is Eczema, and do I need a Dermatologist?
As the weather changes, people may experience changes in their skin. Whether you have a skin condition already or not, “winter skin” can be troublesome. However, what if your itchy skin is something else, not just the dry, cold weather? Your itchy skin could even be something like eczema.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that irritates the skin and creates a dry, inflamed look. It is very itchy and scaly, especially in cold, dry conditions. With eczema, the skin can become patchy, crusty, and oozy. Eczema damages the skin barrier, giving the illusion of flaky skin. While there is no specific cause for this condition, it has been determined that the immune system is connected.
A confirmation from a physician is always the best way to determine whether you have eczema, but you may start seeing different indicators, such as itchy red or pink skin which can lead to lightening or darkening of the skin. You may also begin to have areas of the skin that are warm with minor swelling.
Is Atopic Dermatitis the Same Condition?
While the terms are used interchangeably, dermatitis addresses more than just inflamed skin. Atopic dermatitis includes eczema as part of a triad of symptoms, which can also include allergies and asthma. Atopic dermatitis begins in childhood and sometimes starts subsiding as one goes into adulthood. You will find atopic dermatitis has rashes in the creases of the elbows or knees. The skin may also become discolored or thicker in these areas.
Are there Different Types of Eczema?
There are other types of eczema besides atopic dermatitis. Here are a few others:
- Nipple eczema
- Ear eczema
- Asteatotic eczema
- Dyshidrotic eczema
The care and treatment for eczema may differ based on the person’s condition. Treatments vary from bathing and moisturizing routines to medications. Oatmeal baths, calamine lotion, and anti-itch ointments are recommended for initial treatment.
How Does Someone Develop Eczema?
There is no known cause for eczema, but it is prevalent. A change occurs within the body’s immune system, which leads to inflammation. The underlying inflammation is what drives most symptoms associated with eczema, including itchiness which is the most prevalent symptom. Eczema is not contagious, and you cannot pass it along to someone else from contact, but it may be hereditary.
In most cases, genetics, stress, environmental factors, and someone’s immune system are usually the cause of eczema. Very arid conditions may contribute to environmental factors that cause eczema flare-ups. While there is no known cause, a few things may aid the prevention of eczema. Using topical creams with ceramides can help aid in prevention and symptom relief. It’s also good to avoid hot conditions and sudden temperature changes.
Since this condition has something to do with the immune system, avoiding all forms of stress is recommended—avoiding materials that are sensitive to the skin and soaps or detergents that may cause a rash.
It is very complicated to explain how and why someone develops eczema and the different stages of eczema they may experience. It is essential for someone who has eczema to refrain from scratching the skin, causing additional harm to the outer layers. Scratching could further infect the skin and create an entirely different set of symptoms.
How is Eczema Diagnosed and Treated?
Eczema is typically diagnosed clinically by a physician. A history and physical exam can usually make the diagnosis of eczema and eczema. Occasionally a skin biopsy is performed. Different types of medications and treatments help relieve itching and inflammation. These medications include topical steroids and/or oral medications which can be prescribed by a physician. Eczema can be manageable with treatment, but there is no cure. If not treated, the itching and rash with likely persist.
Can I Take Care of Eczema Myself, or Should I See A Professional?
There are a few ways to help reduce the itching and inflamed skin at home. Moisturizing the skin at least twice a day and OTC options specifically designed to help with treating eczema may help. However, if the symptoms become severe with intense itching, blisters or oozing, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Depending on the severity and condition of eczema, your physician may refer you to a dermatologist.
Dermatologists Specialize in Treating Skin Conditions.
They can diagnose and provide recommendations and a treatment plan for eczema. Once the treatment plan begins, they can also provide follow-up care to ensure the symptoms and flare ups are more infrequent. There are specific clinics designed to deal with eczema, dermatitis, and other skin conditions. In addition, many dermatologists work with the primary care physician to help address the issues going on with the immune system.
There are several types of eczema which can often have overlapping symptoms. Skin biopsies can help aid in the diagnosis. The Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) and Severity Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis Index (SCORAD) are clinical assessment tools that may be used by a dermatologist to help with grading the severity of one’s eczema. Based on the severity and locations involved, a dermatologist will tailor a treatment plan to help minimize symptoms and control the disease.
For more information on diagnosing the type of eczema you may be experiencing and a treatment plan to help alleviate triggers and symptoms, contact Dermatology, Surgery and Cosmetics of Northeast Ohio for an in-depth consultation today!