You are standing in the mirror looking at the impossible looking rash on your skin. You aren’t sure exactly what it is, but you know it is itching like nothing in your life before. Is it eczema? Is there anything you can do to soothe your skin and make life bearable again? We are going to guide through what eczema really is, including the symptoms, so that you know what you are looking at. Then we can talk about treatment options so that you know what you can do to ease the itch and feel comfortable in your own skin again.
What is eczema exactly?
Eczema is really very common. There are several types of eczema including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. We can look at each kind and see what the differences are. In most cases, eczema is scaly patches that are red and inflamed. It is very itchy. Scratching it often breaks the skin and introduces secondary infections. The best thing to do is to avoid scratching.
Atopic dermatitis is the first type we will discuss. It is the most common type. It is the red patches that tend to flare up and get worse with allergies or asthma. It is very itchy. It is also easy to find the trigger for as well as find ways to soothe it. Once you find a trigger, you may be able to avoid the flare-ups completely. Atopic dermatitis is also caused by medications, which may mean you need to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. This is especially true if your medications are not optional.
Contact dermatitis is another form of eczema. It is just as it sounds. This is a form of eczema is caused by encountering something that irritates the skin. The rash is often red and itchy. It is not oozy, or fluid filled. The rash is quite different from poison plant rashes – like poison ivy – in that it does not generally spread when you scratch. The easiest way to figure out what you are allergic to is to change one thing at a time until you notice the rash is gone. Space changes out by a week so that you know for sure what it is. Common allergens are laundry soaps, fabric softeners, soaps, body washes, lotions, and certain materials (like wool).
Dyshidrotic eczema is a small blister on your hands, fingers, toes, and feet. It is more common in the spring. It can be caused by the same things that cause your spring allergies. A common cause is also metal, like nickel. It is often very uncomfortable. It is not athlete’s foot, which is a fungus. Severe cases can make it hard to walk or hold things. It is not as easy to get rid of. However, over the counter, medicated ointments can help to control the blisters. Larger blisters may need to be drained by a doctor. It is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another.
Nummular eczema is a circular rash that can either be dry and flaky or bumpy and oozy. They are usually no bigger than the size of a quarter. They can appear anywhere on the body. These spots are well defined, very itchy, and are bright red in color. It is often mistaken for ringworm. Anywhere that you could get damage to the skin can get nummular eczema. Insect bites, cat scratches, animal bites, or chemical burns are the most common causes. You should keep these areas clean, covered, and avoid scratching to prevent them from spreading. They don’t usually go away on their own and you may need to talk to a doctor to get a cream or ointment to help get rid of these spots.
Seborrheic dermatitis appears anywhere that you have oily skin. This could be on your face, scalp, or neck. It is common around your nose, eyebrows, and hairline. Dandruff is often caused by this kind of eczema. The best thing you can do is treat it over the counter. Try dandruff shampoos, medicated washes, and lotions. There are many eczema products that you can try. Aveeno is a wonderful line that offers many options for treating eczema.
Stasis dermatitis is the most serious of eczema. It is caused by lack of blood flow. It is common among diabetics. There are no over the counter options. It is fairly rare, but it does need to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Failure to get treatment can lead to amputation. Usually, stasis dermatitis is a red, splotchy skin that is itchy and uncomfortable. It can be made worse by skin irritants, such as your socks or pants. It is commonly on the legs and feet.
What are some treatment options?
The type of treatment that you receive will greatly depend on the factors surrounding your eczema. Some types are very easy to diagnose and treat. Other types require a whole treatment plan full of trial and errors. It is best to start of with things that you can do at home. Then, after you have tried all the options you can think of, seek medical advice. Let’s talk about a few things that will help you to get relief. These are all easy things that may help you get almost instant relief or to take the steps that you need to get relief.
Baths and Soaks
You might be surprised to learn that there many brands to choose from. Just look for the baths and soaks labeled eczema relief or eczema friendly. Colloidal Oatmeal is usually at the top of the ingredients list. That is because it helps to soothe itchy skin while enabling the skin to heal. It may help to remove the dead skin so that healthy skin can grow. Usually, you will need to add it to a bath and allow it to soak into the skin for at least fifteen minutes. However, your skin will be soothed so you may not want to ever get out.
Lotions and Creams
You will notice that eczema lotions and creams are much thicker than most lotions. They do not have alcohol because it dries out the skin. A lot of them have essential oils that will help to coat the skin. This allows it to absorb the oils and keep your skin from being so itchy. You can use them as needed or you can apply them before bed. Rubbing creams onto your hands and feet and then covering them with a glove for twenty minutes or so could help your skin to heal and be softer.
Laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and even some dish soaps may be what is giving your skin so much trouble. Try to go for any that have labels that say “free and clear” or for sensitive skin. These will usually have fewer chemicals that will irritate your skin and cause your eczema to flare up. Switch one at a time and give it a week to ten days to see if there is any improvement in your skin. This way you know for sure which product is giving you the most relief.
It is true that what you fill your inside with may affect your outside. Common triggers may be gluten, wheat, msg, or preservatives. Slowly remove these foods from your diet. Replace them with foods that are healthy and natural. Skip convenience foods and try not to eat out. Meal prepping can help you keep dinner times simple all week long. Remember that your body needs water to help flush out all the toxins from your body. This is especially important as you try to rid your body of the chemicals that cause your eczema to flare up.
You don’t have to be allergic to your pet for your pet to be the cause of your eczema. If you get your dog groomed, or do it yourself, you may be allergic to the products that are being used on your pet. While allergies to pet dander, and fur, can be a cause, it isn’t likely if you have been around pets your whole life. It doesn’t stop with dogs and cats, you could be allergic to birds or reptiles. The best thing to do for your cat or dog is to buy chemical – free pet wash or even switch to Dawn dish soap. Fleas and ticks can cause skin irritations as well, so be sure to treat fleas and ticks as organically as you can.
There are many things to try to help get relief. These are just a few. The goal of this post was to help you to better understand eczema so that it doesn’t take over your life, or so you can regain control of your life. Knowledge is power. If you do decide that you do need to go see your doctor, you have the information needed to have a real conversation. Knowing that you understand what is going on will help your doctor to explain why he suggests the treatments that he does. After all, knowledge should always be your first step.