Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that affects approximately 30 million people in the United States. Characterized by red, itchy patches of skin, eczema is not contagious. It can affect people at any age, and is common among infants as well as adults, although it is most often diagnosed in babies or young children. Symptoms may become less severe as people age. It’s important to remember that while eczema cannot be cured, it can be managed.
If you are looking for severe eczema treatment, the medical dermatology team at West Dermatology in Arizona, Nevada, or California has the experience and treatments needed to help you. With locations in major cities throughout the southwestern United States, including Hillcrest, San Diego, Phoenix, and others, West Dermatology has been serving families like yours for over six decades.
What Does Eczema Look Like?
Eczema rashes can look different on different people, and range from mild to severe. Atopic dermatitis often begins with dry patches of skin that are intensely itchy. As patients scratch these patches of skin, inflammatory chemicals are released in the body, which triggers more itchiness. The cycle continues until skin becomes red, bumpy, and even bleeding.
Eczema can develop on any part of the body, but it is common on the hands, feet, elbows, and knees. Babies and young children often develop red, itchy patches on their faces. The initial itchy spot may be slightly reddish when eczema begins, but most often it’s simply a dry patch of skin. Later on, the skin may remain red and inflamed, and develop a crusty, scaly appearance after multiple bouts of eczema.
The Eight Types of Eczema
There are a number of different types that differ in where they present on the skin, and the specifics of their symptoms. Subsets of eczema include:
1. Atopic Dermatitis
This type is the most severe, and often comes and goes throughout a patient’s lifetime. It almost always begins in childhood, usually during infancy, and is typically worse during childhood. This type is inherited from parents.
Symptoms include dry, itchy, scaly skin; cracks behind the ears; and rashes on cheeks, arms, and legs. It alternately improves and worsens. Symptoms are often accompanied by open or crusted sores, which are caused by scratching or infections.
2. Hand Eczema
Common in about 10% of the population, this type is characterized by itchy, scaly patches on the hands, typically on the skin between fingers. Patients experience redness, dryness, cracks, and blisters.
The condition can be irritated by chemicals, so is often experienced by people whose jobs involve cleaning, hairdressing, healthcare, and other chemical-dependent industries.
3. Contact Dermatitis
This type has two forms: irritant and allergic. Irritant eczema develops after contact with substances such as industrial chemicals, detergents, fumes, tobacco smoke, paints, bleach, woolen fabrics, acidic foods, astringents, and some fragrances and soaps. Allergic contact dermatitis is typically caused by exposure to animal or vegetable proteins from foods, pollens, or pets.
Contact dermatitis is most likely to flare up around the hands or parts of the body that touch the irritant/allergen and gets worse with repeated contact.
4. Seborrheic Dermatitis
Typically affecting the scalp, this type is known as “cradle cap” in babies. Older children and adults can develop it on the scalp as well as face and upper chest. It is characterized by redness; itching; and dry, flaky skin.
5. Dyshidrotic Eczema
This type manifests as itchy blisters on fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. It affects women more often than men, and symptoms tend to develop when one is under stress, experiencing allergies, or frequently has wet or moist hands.
6. Nummular Eczema
This common type manifests differently than most eczemas. It can sometimes look like ringworm and is characterized by round, coin-shaped spots that can be dry and scaly, or wet and open. It can present as a reaction to an insect bite, inflammation elsewhere on the body, or dry skin in the winter.
Similar to atopic dermatitis, neurodermatitis presents as thick, scaly patches caused by rubbing or scratching of the area over time. It is common on the nape of the neck, scalp, shoulders, instep of feet/ankles, wrists, and backs of hands. The patches stay even when other flare-ups subside.
8. Stasis Dermatitis
This type is caused by a problem with the veins, generally in the lower legs. It happens when normal blood flow through the veins is interrupted by varicose veins or a problem with the valves of the veins. Pressure develops, which results in fluid leaking out of the veins and into the skin, causing symptoms such as swelling, redness, scaly patches, itching, and pain.
Along with other treatment described below, stasis dermatitis patients can benefit from pressure wraps or stockings, and elevating the feet.
Other skin conditions can mimic eczema, so it’s important to have a dermatologist diagnose any persistent, itchy rash.
What Causes Eczema?
Experts aren’t sure what are causes, but they do know it often appears alongside asthma, allergies, and hay fevers. In addition, many types are inherited.
How Is Eczema Diagnosed?
Dermatologists diagnose eczema based on a physical examination of the rash and the patient’s health history. They can even perform a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. After other skin diseases are ruled out, your doctor can diagnose your condition as eczema. There’s no blood test or other laboratory tests that can confirm the condition.
For more information on itchy skin and severe eczema treatment, visit WebMD.com.
How Is It Treated?
The goal treatment is to relieve itching and inflammation so that the rash goes away on its own. Because the skin is often very dry, a combination of anti-itch medications and lotions may be prescribed or recommended along with moisturizing creams.
Over-the-counter medications containing hydrocortisone may be effective at relieving symptoms. Prescription medications containing corticosteroids can lessen inflammation. These medications come in creams and lotions and are applied directly to the rash. Your doctor may also recommend an antihistamine medication to reduce allergies reactions and inflammation.
How Can I Tell if My Condition is Infected?
You may be experiencing an infection if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Blisters, blisters, pustules, or dry crusts
- Weeping clear or yellow fluid
- Sudden worsening, with reddening, itching, and soreness
- Yellow pus spots
- Small, red spots around body hairs
- Flu-like symptoms, with a raised temperature
- Swollen glands in the neck, armpit, or groin
If your symptoms are getting worse or not responding to treatment, see a doctor to check for infection.
Because symptoms tend to flare up when skin becomes dry and irritated, people should use skin lotions or moisturizers after every bath or shower. Applying moisturizers while the skin is still damp can lock in the moisture.
Symptoms vary for most people, which means that treatment and management options vary as well. There are commonalities, however, and some questions that our specialists answer regularly. If you still have questions, contact your local West Dermatology office to make an appointment with a dermatologist.
Q: What are the symptoms of eczema?
A: See above for specific signs, but in general, eczema will appear as red, itchy patches of skin. It can range from mild to severe.
Q: At what age does eczema appear?
A: Eczema is most often diagnosed in babies or young children.
Q: Can adults have eczema?
A: Yes, but symptoms generally become less severe as people age.
Q: What causes eczema?
A: While the cause of eczema is unknown, people who have it often also suffer from asthma, allergies, and hay fevers.
Q: Where does eczema appear?
A: Eczema is most common on the hands, feet, elbows, and knees. Babies and young children often develop eczema patches on their faces and scalps.
Q: Is eczema contagious?
A: No, it is not contagious.
Q: Should a child with eczema see a doctor?
A: Yes, a visit to a dermatologist can help with the diagnosis and treatment of eczema.
Q: Can children receive vaccines if they have eczema?
A: Yes. Eczema, unless it is a severe flare-up, is not affected by vaccinations.
Q: Should you inform other people that your child has eczema?
A: Yes. Teachers, caregivers, and other family members should know about eczema so they know what steps to follow to help keep flare-ups at bay. You can share triggers, such as certain foods, extreme weather, too much sun, and other triggers specific to your child.
Q: What activities should a child with eczema avoid?
A: Sports and other activities are fine, although excess sweating can aggravate flare-ups, so watch the weather and make sure your child is not bundled too tightly. Take special precautions when swimming – both chlorine and salt water can aggravate the skin, so make sure that your child rinses off thoroughly after a dip and applies moisturizer.
Q: Can a child with eczema be in the sun?
A: It’s wise to use sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothing and stay in the shade as much as possible.
Q: Can a child with eczema have a pet?
A: Pets with fur or hair, such as cats, dogs, guinea pigs, etc., can aggravate the condition. Avoid sleeping with a pet, and make sure you vacuum frequently. Check with your doctor about a specific species of pet you are considering.
Find Skilled Eczema Skincare Treatment with West Dermatology
If you have noticed symptoms that indicate you could have eczema or have been diagnosed with the condition, know that relief is possible. West Dermatology’s skilled skincare team in Arizona, Nevada, or California (including Hillcrest, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and other major southwest US cities) can find the effective severe eczema treatments needed to stop itching, life-altering eczema. Please use our online contact form to schedule a helpful consultation with a dermatologist.
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