Q: What is eczema? Can it be managed?
Eczema is a very common medical condition influenced by genetic and environmental factors that occurs in both children and adults. Some of the common symptoms include dry itchy skin that becomes flaky or scaly; red or darker patches; raised bumps; crusty and oozy. Rubbing or scratching can worsen the itching, which leads to irritation and open sores on the skin. Eczema can occur concomitantly with other medical conditions such as asthma or food/environmental allergies, but typically one does not directly cause the other. There are many factors that can trigger eczema such as dry skin, weather change, chronic rubbing, and application of various products on the skin, etc.
Some patients suffer a chronic and relapsing course, but it is not contagious, and there are things that one can do to minimize its severity. When bathing or showering, use lukewarm water instead of hot water, as hot water can cause itching. Try to limit soap use only in odorous areas such as armpit and groin, as lathering soap all over can cause over-drying of the skin. After washing, gently pat the skin dry with a towel and avoid scrubbing to prevent irritation. Moisturizing daily with thick emollients right after showering helps to lock in the body’s moisture and avoid dry itchy skin that can trigger a flare-up.
If your eczema is interfering with your sleep or daily activities, or if your symptoms are getting worse, talk with your doctor about whether medication may be appropriate to manage your condition.
Jinmeng Zhang, MD