You probably think that you know what eczema feels like because you might have dealt with extremely dry skin in the winters. Trust us; it’s just not about extremely dry skin. A person with atopic dermatitis will tell you how much worse it actually is rather than just having a dry skin. Anyone living with this chronic condition will tell you how the rashes may appear in their heads at any time of the year because almost anything including food, weather, clothes, or soap can trigger the condition. The symptoms can range from mild and extensive enough to keeping you awake and itchy all night.
So, if you don’t have eczema, you probably don’t know how it feels. However, here are some things that all of you should know in order to help yourselves and your loved ones who are going through this chronic illness.
Eczema doesn’t refer to just one condition or a symptom. It is the term used to describe a group of related conditions which may lead to dry & itchy red patches that flare up on different parts of the body when the immune system reacts to the trigger. Often, it is referred to as atopic dermatitis and it can also be identified by contact dermatitis, which is when the rashes appear on your skin when it comes in contact with the irritants or the trigger. When the rashes are round or coin shaped, this skin condition is referred to as nummular eczema; and stasis dermatitis, when the fluids starts leaking from the rashes because of weakened blood vessels. Some people might confuse it with psoriasis, but eczema and psoriasis are two completely different things with nearly same set of symptoms.
If both of your parents have eczema, there is 80% chance that you will have eczema too. Eczema depends so much on your genetic background. If you have family history with hay fever or asthma, you may have eczema in that case as well.
It is not necessary that eczema affects your whole body. Sometimes eczema is restricted to just hands known as hand eczema. The most common symptoms of hand eczema are same as atopic dermatitis which includes dry & chapped skin, painful cracks, red patches, and itchy blisters. Many people out there might have extremely dry and itchy hands in winters. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have eczema. Among such people, if the condition doesn’t resolve with moisturizers, they should get tested by dermatologists of eczema.
Some people fear that they will also get eczema if they get in touch with the affected person. Well, no matter how much you contact with someone having eczema, there is no chance that you will catch the condition from them. Eczema is 100% not contagious. Since eczema often runs in families, this might give many people the illusion that the condition might be contagious just like poison ivy or chickenpox.
No one can ever explain what a person with eczema goes through. In fact a list of symptoms can’t begin to capture the experience in real. Sometimes, eczema causes intense itching and discomfort that it becomes nearly impossible to focus and sleep. This may leave the sufferers exhausted and unable to function properly. It may affect relationships, mental health, work, and overall life.
There are several environmental factors that can trigger various symptoms. Sudden changes in climate, too hot weather, too cold weather, dry weather, and in fact the humid weather can cause eczema flare ups. Apart from the environmental factors, there are many other triggers present near you such as perfumes, soaps, detergents, clothes etc. Different things affect different people differently.
Eczema takes its toll on mental health as well. It can flare up if you can't control stress, nervousness, depression. And it can cause depression itself. Even if someone manages to take care of all external triggers, a hard day at work or a messy day can make their skin breakout. Many people complained that their symptoms were severe and itching was worse when they had stress. According to the National Eczema Association, eczema sufferers are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, creating a deadly cycle for patients who count stress as a trigger.
It may seem impossible for someone experiencing the intense and incessant itch of eczema not to scratch and rub the infected area. But scratching a rash is the worst thing you can do to help yourself. Instead of providing relief, it may make your skin more irritated and worsen the condition even more. When your eczema suddenly flares up, fight your urge to scratch and think that it could only make your eczema worse. You could also try to occupy yourself with something else that can distract you and make you forget about scratching.
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