Eczema is a broad term that affects a broad audience. Eczema is an umbrella term made up of a number of specific conditions that all cause the skin to be red, itchy, and inflamed. The National Eczema Association reports that over 30 million Americans suffer from eczema. Fortunately however, it is treatable and manageable.
It is not known exactly what causes eczema, but researchers believe that it is a combination of genes as well as an existing trigger that causes a reaction. People with eczema tend to have over-reactive immune systems and exposure to a trigger activates the immune system. This activation produces an inflammatory response in the skin. Researchers also believe that the cause may be rooted in an inability to produce a protein called Filaggrin. Filaggrin is a protein that helps uphold the protective barrier in the skin. Without a strong protective barrier, it is much harder to maintain moisture in the skin and allows the possibility for bacteria and viruses to enter the skin. This is why eczema sufferers tend to have very dry and infection-prone skin.
The first step to managing eczema is identifying personal triggers that cause a reaction. However this can be difficult to pinpoint, as reactions don’t always occur immediately after exposure to a trigger. Plus triggers differ from person to person, and can differ depending on the area of the body as well as the time of the year. One of the most common triggers is the skin being too dry. If the skin becomes too dry, it can result in a painful and itchy rash, so it is imperative that moisture be kept in the skin. Other common irritants include fragrances and soap like body wash, bath products, shampoo, dish soap as well as laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets.
Stress and climate also have an effect on eczema. While no direct link has been found in research, many people report that stress can worsen their eczema or cause a new reaction altogether. Some people also experience a “prickly heat” sensation in warm climates, where humidity and sweat from the heat can cause an itchy rash. Then in the winter with colder temperatures and low humidity, most people with eczema suffer reactions as their skin turns drier and thus reacts.
The key for managing eczema is knowing your personal symptoms and triggers, and working with your medical provider to learn how to treat your condition. Contact us to set up an appointment at 804-549-4040