Dry or itchy skin is commonly caused by a medical condition known as eczema. Eczema is accompanied by a noticeable rash. If you have it, you may also notice flaking, swelling or oozing skin.
Eczema often occurs sporadically, and outbreaks may last for a few days or a few weeks. It is not a life-threatening ailment and is not contagious. However, it is physically uncomfortable. It may also have a negative impact on your self-esteem or social life. You may be embarrassed by its appearance, or your acquaintances may think the condition is contagious. Therefore, managing your eczema to alleviate symptoms and reduce outbreaks is important for your physical and mental health.
Eczema management can be complicated because no two cases are alike. Your eczema triggers and the presentation of your symptoms are unique. For example, oozing skin requires different treatments than dry or flaky skin. Controlling your eczema may require some trial and error. Below is a list of some of the best ways to manage eczema.
Eczema is typically triggered by specific stimuli, much like an allergy. You may have one trigger or several. For example, a food allergy may cause your eczema to flare up. However, food-related eczema outbreaks are most likely when you are a child. Food triggers are difficult to pinpoint because you eat many different foods throughout the day. You are also exposed to other potential eczema triggers daily. Therefore even if food looks like a likely cause, it may turn out to not be your trigger. If you think a specific food you eat may be contributing to your eczema, stop eating the food for at least a month or so. If your eczema symptoms persist after this period, the food is not the cause.
Related Article: Think You Have a Food Allergy? You Could Be Wrong
In adulthood, the possible triggers of eczema are numerous. Your skin is exposed to multiple potential allergens or irritants daily. Reactions inside your body can also contribute to eczema outbreaks. Some possible triggers to look for include:
Keeping your skin moist is one of the best ways to control your eczema. For example, if you currently shower or bathe in hot water, switch to warm or cool water. Hot water dries your skin out, aggravating flakiness and itchiness. If you must shower using hot water, keep your showers as short as possible. You can also keep your skin moisturized by not using harsh soaps while bathing. They remove your natural skin oils, causing your skin to become dry. Use soaps without perfumes or dyes.
If you live in a hot, dry climate, the air in your home may be equally hot and dry. Constant exposure to those conditions dries out your skin, aggravating eczema. Another way to keep your skin moist is to increase the humidity level of the air in your home. You can do so using a small humidifier in the room where you spend the most time. Alternatively, you can connect a humidifier directly to your heating system to improve the air quality of your entire home.
Moisturizing creams or lotions can also help you control the dry, itchy or flaky skin you experience during eczema flare ups. You may benefit from the use of a single product or a combination of products. Once you establish a moisturizing routine, follow your new routine daily. You may need to apply moisturizing cream at least twice each day for the best results.
The clothes you wear are unlikely to cause eczema. However, they can make existing eczema flare ups worse in some situations. For example, any clothing making you feel hot greatly increases your odds of sweating. Sweat can increase your eczema symptoms. Therefore, it is important to choose appropriate clothing for the weather. Also, make sure your clothing is appropriate for your planned activities. The clothing you choose must allow air flow between the fabric and your skin, especially during times of excessive activity. For instance, if you intend to work out, you must wear loose clothing to minimize sweat.
Choosing the clothing you wear when you have eczema carefully is also important for minimizing skin irritation. When rough or scratchy clothing rubs against your skin, it becomes irritated. This may cause the rash to worsen. You may also experience more itchiness or discomfort, causing you to scratch your skin more and create a cycle of worsening symptoms. Natural fibers are typically the most comfortable and least irritating to the skin. However, you should avoid wearing wool because it is quite rough and scratchy. Cotton is ideal because it is soft and light.
There are several types of medications available to help you manage your eczema. One commonly used option is corticosteroids. To begin, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid cream. The medicated cream may reduce itchiness and swelling temporarily during an eczema flare up.
Oral corticosteroids may also be prescribed by your doctor. He or she may do so if you are suffering from severe inflammation that is unresponsive to cream treatments. If you have a severe flare up, he or she may also recommend corticosteroid injections. However, corticosteroid medication is a short-term treatment. Long-term use may cause side effects like:
You may also require antibiotics during your eczema outbreaks. This is because scratching your skin may cause open sores. Open sores create breeding grounds for bacteria, so it is easy for a skin infection to develop during an outbreak. Antibiotic treatment is a solution for the skin infection. It is not recommended when no infection is present.
Topical immunomodulators (TIMs) are medications designed to change how your body treats allergens. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, TIMs can help alleviate your symptoms when traditional treatments fail. You may also benefit from the use of antihistamines or immunosuppressant medications. Your doctor can make this determination by assessing your outbreaks and how they respond to other treatments.
Related Article: The Better-Skin Diet