Eczema: What Is It? Symptoms and Different Types
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about eczema? A red rash? Dry skin? Or perhaps even some skin inflammation that impacts young children? Although these thoughts aren't wrong, what many people don’t realize is that eczema can be rather painful.
According to the National Eczema Association, 30 million people in the U.S. are live with some form of eczema. There are many different types of this condition, so there’s really no one-shoe-fits-all treatment plan. People can experience flare-ups at any time and in many cases, for no reason at all.
The symptoms often go far beyond red, dry, itchy skin when it comes to severe eczema that needs a little extra help from topical steroid creams to soothe the affected area.
If you’re interested in learning more about this condition, you've come to the right place.
In this article, Topicals is going to tell you everything you need to know about eczema and how you can go beyond just plain over the counter lotion or moisturizer to help soothe it. So buckle up and get comfortable.
What Exactly is Eczema?
If your skin gets pretty itchy and turns red and flaky sometimes, chances are you might have eczema. This skin condition is very common in little ones, but adults can get it too.
Eczema is sometimes called “atopic dermatitis,” which happens to be the most common form. “Atopic” refers to a person’s tendency to get allergic conditions such as hay fever and asthma. Individuals with eczema often have allergies or asthma along with itchy, red skin—hence the name “atopic dermatitis.”
However, the truth is that eczema comes in a handful of other forms, too. And each type has its own set of triggers and symptoms.
Types of Eczema
There are many different types of eczema, but the most common ones include:
This is the most common type of eczema, affecting up to 15 million Americans. It tends to begin early in life in those with a predisposition to inhalant allergies. Characteristically, rashes occur on the neck, elbow, knee creases, ankles, and cheeks.
This typically occurs when the skin is repeatedly exposed to toxic substances or even excessive washing that makes the skin dry and irritated.
Just about everyone gets this at some point or another. It happens when your skin comes in contact with something that causes a rash.
Allergic dermatitis occurs when an individual’s immune system reacts to a particular substance, known as an allergen.
This type of eczema causes round, coin-shaped spots. The term “nummular” means ‘coin’ in Latin. Nummular eczema usually looks very different from other types of eczema and it can itch quite a bit.
Stasis dermatitis occurs when fluid leaks out of weakened veins into your skin. This fluid causes redness, pain, swelling, and of course, itching.
Also known as pompholyx eczema, dyshidrotic eczema typically appears in adults under the age of 40. It usually occurs on the feet and hands and has characteristic symptoms, such as itching and the appearance of small blisters.
This type of eczema is most common in older adults with varicose veins. It typically affects the lower legs and symptoms can include hot, itchy spots, blisters, weepy, crusty patches, and everything in between.
Also called xerotic eczema, this type of eczema generally only affects people over 60 years of age. Experts are still not totally sure why that is but it may be due to the skin becoming drier as a person ages. Scaling, itching, and soreness, as well as cracked, dry skin, are all common characteristics of asteatotic eczema.
This happens in areas of your body with lots of oil glands. When it’s on your scalp, it’s known as dandruff.
Causes of Eczema
Okay, so what exactly causes eczema in the first place?
To be honest, the cause of eczema is not yet fully understood. It’s believed to be triggered by an overactive immune system that tends to respond aggressively when exposed to irritants.
In some cases, eczema is caused by an abnormal response to proteins that are naturally a part of your body. Normally, your immune system would just ignore these proteins, attacking only the foreign proteins, such as bacteria or viruses.
But on some occasions, your body attacks itself, causing an eczema flare-up. In eczema, this is believed to happen because your immune system loses the ability to tell the difference between the two, which causes inflammation.
An eczema flare-up is when one or more eczema symptoms appear at once.
Some of the common triggers of a flare-up include:
- Chemicals found in detergents and cleaners that dry out the skin
- Synthetic fabrics
- Rough, scratchy material
- A sudden drop in humidity
- Food allergies
- Animal dander
- Temperature changes
- Upper respiratory infections
Symptoms of Eczema
The main symptom that comes from eczema is angry skin. Dry, itchy, rough, flakey, inflamed, and irritated skin that can flare up, subside, and then flare up again.
However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that eczema and its symptoms are very different for everyone. Your eczema flare-ups may not look the same on you as it does your bestie, partner, or even your parent with eczema. Different types may even appear in different areas of the body at different times.
So by now, we all know that eczema is itchy, but how itchy? Well, that’s a different story.
You see, for many people, the itch can range from mild to moderate, but in some cases, it can become much worse, and you might even develop extremely inflamed skin that develops a skin infection or other skin problem. Sometimes the itch can get so bad that people scratch it until it bleeds, which can make your eczema so much worse. This is called the “itch-scratch cycle.”
What to look for:
Dry, sensitive skin
Rough, leathery, or scaly patches of skin
Crusting or oozing
Areas of swelling
Inflamed, discolored skin
If you have eczema, you might experience all of these symptoms, or it’s possible to only experience a few. You also might have some flare-ups, or your symptoms could go away entirely.
Everyone is different, so it tends to vary from person to person, but the best way to find out if you have eczema is to seek medical advice from a dermatology pro who can check out your skin and ask about your symptoms.
The doctor may also ask about:
Any use of steroids (like a topical corticosteroid, i.e. hydrocortisone)
Any previous treatments or home remedies for skin conditions
In addition to a physical examination of the rash, your doctor may also perform a patch test. A patch test involves pricking a person’s skin with tiny needles that contain potential allergens and irritants. This type of test can determine whether or not someone has contact dermatitis.
How to Manage Eczema
Although there is no real cure to completely kick eczema to the curb, keeping your skin moisturized is key to helping you soothe symptoms. This is because many people with eczema have a weak skin barrier, which makes it very difficult for the skin to retain any water. This means more dry skin, which can easily get damaged, leading to an eczema flare-up.
Thankfully, there are awesome products on the market, like our very own Like Butter, that can strengthen the skin barrier, locking moisture deep within your skin to prevent severe dryness from eczema.
Not to mention our mask also has colloidal oatmeal for that soothing relief, turmeric for anti-inflammatory goodness, and other natural, science-backed skincare ingredients to nourish and heal that dry itchy skin!
While there is no cure to kiss eczema goodbye for good, there are many treatments available to help soothe your symptoms.
Topical’s Like Butter is a deliciously soft, thick, whipped mask that’s packed with powerful botanicals for skin so smooth, it’s like butter.
Like Butter helps to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, soothe irritation and inflammation, and smooth, dry, textured skin, making it your ultimate weapon to combat eczema. It’s oh-so-creamy without feeling greasy or heavy, and works wonders for flare-ups.
Eczema can really put a damper on your day, but thankfully Topicals can help!
With a true passion for providing the best products that are scientifically-backed and dermatologist-approved, it’s easy to see why Topicals is loved by so many.