What is it really like to live with eczema? How do you know if you have it on your body? We answer these questions and more.
Facts About Eczema
Eczema isn’t fully understood by the medical community. There has been no definitive root cause identified and triggers vary widely among diagnosed patients. Collectively, however, there are some agreed-upon facts that could help you learn more about the condition. The following are a few interesting tidbits:
The term eczema is actually a group of conditions. Most of the time, the word is used to describe atopic dermatitis with the classic red, itchy, dry patches of skin. The eczema family also includes:
Contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction from direct skin contact with an irritant.
Nummular eczematous dermatitis, characterized by the coin-shaped patches of the rash.
Stasis dermatitis, fluid weeps out of ulcers on the lower appendages (usually the calves).
Eczema can be genetic. If both of your parents have eczema, you have an 80% chance of developing it too.
It is not contagious. The appearance of the rash worries others due to misconceptions and the prevalence of contagious rashes. Eczema, however, cannot be contracted person-to-person.
It affects more than your skin. Severe cases of eczema can be debilitating. The itching causes loss of sleep which initiates a domino effect onto all aspects of your life. It also makes sufferers self-conscious about their looks which can lead to mental health issues.
How Do You Know If You Have Eczema?
The solitary concrete way to determine any condition is to seek a medical opinion. If you are curious and have to wait to be seen, Internet research can tell you, how do you know if you have eczema?
If you can answer yes to the following questions, you might have eczema:
- Do you have a red rash?
- Does it itch?
- Is the rash on your face, hands, wrists, back of knees, or feet?
- Does your skin look scaly? Thicker than normal?
A positive response to the multiple questions above could indicate an eczema breakout.
Real People Describe What Eczema is Like
Still harboring uncertainty about your eczema status? Already have a doctor’s note in hand, but feel alone in managing your illness? Hearing others’ stories about living with eczema could prove beneficial for your mental well-being. Read about what eczema is really like, straight from people who have it.
Lesley, 24, described her eczema as a dormant volcano. It is ready to erupt at any moment, without warning.
Kirsten, 25, says the skin condition affects 100% of her life. She is constantly thinking about it and taking action to control it. For example, she has to make wardrobe choices based on the severity of her outbreak that day. Many days, she has to forgo a bra in exchange for a gentler bralette or tank top.
Imani, 21, once had an outbreak so thick her eyebrow hair couldn’t grow through it. She also had cracking and bleeding in the bendy parts of her body from moving normally.
Living Better with Eczema
A chronic condition adds stress to an already complex human existence. There is no known cure, but you can take steps to live a better life with chronic illness. WebMD recommends the following:
- See a doctor. They can develop a comprehensive treatment plan to prevent outbreaks and find temporary relief from flares. Prescription creams have been designed to treat eczema including calcineurin inhibitors that suppress inflammatory responses in the immune system. Topically used for eczema, the oral equivalents are utilized in organ transplants to stop the body from rejecting its new organ.
- UV-ray device. Phototherapy is growing in popularity for its success in treating eczema.
- Avoid triggers. Journaling the foods you eat, the products you use, and the activities you encounter on a daily basis can be helpful to identify what might spark an outbreak.
Common Eczema Triggers to Avoid
Flares can be activated by a slew of different things and deviate in individuals. There are, however, some collective items that commonly trigger allergic reactions or eczema outbreaks.
Avoiding items on this list could be the glimmer of hope in your future life with chronic illness.
- Cleaning products. Solvents are filled with harsh chemicals to clean and kill germs. Switch to gentler, natural options or opt to wear cotton gloves while cleaning.
- Cigarette smoke. If you smoke, use this opportunity to quit. If you don’t, avoid areas (bars, casinos, etc) where smoking is allowed.
- Perfumes. These irritating scents can be found in soaps, lotions, cosmetics, air fresheners, and candles.
- Hot water. Scalding water dries out the skin.
- Sunburns. Stay out of direct sunlight and wear sunscreen. If normal formulas bother you, try a mineral version like zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
- Laundry detergent. This is a sneaky one because people don’t always consider that traces of laundry soap stays in the fabrics. Perfumes and dyes from smelly detergents could irritate the skin.
- Stress. Calm down, slow down, and remove unnecessary stress from your life. It is making you sick, quite literally.
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