Eczema is a skin condition that causes red, scaly, itchy patches of skin that can ooze and bleed if scratched or rubbed. Also called dermatitis, eczema often develops during childhood and sometimes resolves by adulthood, although many adults also have the condition or develop it during the adult years. Because the affected skin can become raw and broken when rubbed, infections are more likely, and routine care is important for managing symptoms and preventing infection. Eczema frequently occurs in a cycle, with breakouts or flare-ups followed by intermittent periods of calm during which breakouts are fewer.
The specific cause of eczema is unknown, but researchers believe it’s related to an inflammation of the skin that develops when the immune system overreacts or malfunctions. Eczema flare-ups are often caused by:
People with a family history of the disease are more likely to have it themselves, as are those who have allergies or asthma. Mentioning these issues during an examination can aid in diagnosis and management.
Eczema cannot be cured, but it can be managed successfully. Some mild cases of eczema can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as increasing the use of moisturizers, taking shorter and cooler showers, avoiding harsh detergents and other chemical additives, using gentle skin cleaners and eliminating long, hot baths. Learning how to manage stress can also help many people avoid flare-ups. More stubborn cases of eczema can be treated with topical creams or antihistamines designed to “short circuit” the immune response that causes flare-ups. More severe cases may benefit from UV light therapy or stronger prescription medications. Seeing the dermatologist for routine checkups and skin care recommendations is important to manage flare-ups over time and in response to skin changes that can occur with age.
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