Whoever said eczema goes away with age? Although many people “outgrow” eczema with age, this is little comfort to the many adults who continue to have eczema, or develop eczema later in life.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a chronic condition that causes dry skin, which can also lead to related symptoms of itch, redness, and when severe, pain, swelling, and fissures of the skin. While eczema is often thought to be a childhood condition, the truth is that many people continue to suffer from eczema into adulthood, and some people may even develop eczema later in life.
Dryness and itching are the most common and irritating aspects of eczema in most cases, and when severe, it can interrupt sleep, and have a significant impact on quality of life. Although eczema impacts people in different ways, there are many common challenges that people with eczema experience.
The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, an eczema that is related to asthma or hayfever, and tends to begin in infancy or childhood. Most people think of this condition when they hear about eczema. For people with atopic dermatitis, the condition often becomes mild or disappears by adulthood. Unfortunately many people never “grow out of it” and need to continue to be vigilant in managing their symptoms.
For a small number of patients, eczema can develop later in life. Patients who have had eczema since childhood have the advantage of experience; they know intimately how their skin reacts to various conditions, and how to manage their skin. For patients new to eczema, it can be a challenge to learn new habits and understand how their body reacts. As eczema impacts each person differently, it can take some time until you understand what triggers your symptoms.
- Itching: The itch of eczema can be severe. It can be frustrating, distracting, and result in loss of concentration. At night, it can sometimes be severe enough to make sleeping a challenge.
- Pain and bleeding: When dry skin becomes severe, the skin can form painful cracks called fissures. This can lead to bleeding.
- Winter: The winter months can cause dry skin for everyone, but it is particularly harsh for people with eczema. The low humidity and moisture can trigger flare-ups easier, and can worsen existing symptoms of dry or cracked skin.
Prevention and Treatment
Prevention and treatment go hand in hand when dealing with eczema. As eczema is a chronic condition, you need to always keep prevention in mind while managing flare-ups with prompt and effective treatment. One important factor to consider is that the skin generally becomes drier with age as our sebaceous glands weaken and produce less moisture protecting oil. This may have an impact on your eczema, and you may need to adjust your skincare regimen accordingly.
- Prevention needs to be incorporated into your lifestyle. Eczema is a chronic condition, and it’s important to remain vigilant with your skincare.
- Moisturize your skin regularly, even when you aren’t experiencing symptoms of eczema
- Protect your skin from extreme temperatures, particularly in the winter time by wearing long sleeves and covering up your skin.
- Avoid hot baths or showers. Hot water strips the protective oil off of the skin, making it vulnerable to drying. People with eczema are particularly vulnerable to drying, so it’s important to use lukewarm water for washing.
- Indoor heating can reduce the humidity in the house significantly especially in the winter, worsening eczema symptoms. A humidifier can counter this effect to a certain degree.
- Do you have a treatment regimen? If not, the first step is to talk to your dermatologist. Have a treatment plan ready in case you have a flare-up. The faster you can control the flare-up the better your skin will be.
- Do not ignore flare-ups. The faster your treatment, the less damage your skin will be exposed to. Called the itch-scratch cycle, itch causes a compulsion to scratch the skin to relieve the itch. Unfortunately, scratching only temporarily relieves itch and damages the skin, leaving the condition worse and later triggering a worse itch. Early treatment cuts this negative cycle immediately, leaving the skin ready to heal.