If you suffer from eczema (atopic dermatitis), you’re probably beyond the point of frustration and irritation. There is no cure, and it tends to be hard to treat. Popular remedies can be slow-acting, expensive, and in some cases, ineffective. The disease tends to go through cycles of remission (symptom-free periods), and flare-ups, with symptoms often times becoming quite severe.
So what can be done to battle eczema?
First, you should understand the disease.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a group of inflammatory conditions in which the skin becomes severely dry and itchy. Scratching or rubbing to alleviate the itching often leads to scaly, crusting skin that can crack, peel, or leak a clear fluid. It can even become leathery. Eczema is a lot of things, but one thing it isn’t is contagious.
It can run in families, since certain genes can cause some people to have extra-sensitive skin. An overactive immune system also comes into play, as people with eczema are also prone to allergies like hay fever and asthma. Sometimes the environment may be a contributing factor, and certain activities may cause the skin to be more sensitive. Certain defects in the skin barrier will allow moisture out and germs in.
What Can Trigger Eczema Flare Ups?
Given its ties to inflammation, it’s no surprise that certain things can trigger eczema into action. A trigger isn’t something that causes eczema, but it can cause a flare-up, or make symptoms worse. Typically, the most common triggers are substances that irritate the skin or actions and environments that cause the skin to dry out or become otherwise sensitive.
- Contact with irritating substances like wool and synthetic fabrics
- Dry climates
- Dry skin
- Soaps and cleansers
- Dust and sand
- Environmental irritants
- Cigarette smoke
- Prolonged exposure to water
- Not moisturizing after bathing
Flares may also be triggered by certain conditions that have an effect on the immune system like a cold or the flu, bacterial infections, or allergic reaction to things like mold, pollen, or pet dander.
What Does Eczema Look Like?
Usually your skin will itch before the rash appears. You’ll notice patches of chronically itchy, dry, thickened skin usually on the hands, face, and legs. Children will also show signs in the inner creases of the knees and elbows.
You should resist the urge to scratch, or you could turn those dry patches of skin into open sores with crusts that could get infected.
How To Take Care of Eczema
Eczema is frustrating, at best, but working with your dermatologist to formulate a plan that can control your itch and rash will provide you with relief. It is important that your approach will not irritate the skin any further.
There should be four main goals to your treatment protocol:
- Control the itching
- Prevent infections
- Heal the skin
- Prevent future flare-ups
Of course, limiting your exposure to things that you know can trigger your flare-ups is the cornerstone of your treatment plan.
Creams and ointments are designed to help control the itching and heal your skin. Most of them are designed to be anti-inflammatory in nature. They may include corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Some medications are meant to turn down your immune system’s response, keeping it from overreacting. Antihistamines may help relieve some itching, though might dry your skin out further.
When scratching has led to a bacterial skin infection, antibiotics are warranted.
UV light therapy may help to keep the immune system in check, as well. Though it should always be used with discretion and under a doctor’s supervision, as it increases your risk for skin cancer and can prematurely age your skin.
Keeping your skin healthy can prevent the dryness and flare-ups, lessening the need for medications.
- Use only warm water to bath, not hot. And avoid too much bathing or handwashing. Employ only gentle fragrance-free cleansers instead of soap.
- Moisturize your skin (both face and body) daily. Make sure it’s a fragrance-free version. You may want to go for one that is a thicker skin cream or ointment that has more oil at night.
- Limit your contact with irritants like cosmetics, cleaners, detergents, and anything else that may make your condition worse. Wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes.
- Wear cotton clothes that have a comfortable fit.
- Avoid getting overheated and sweaty when possible. If you sweat while you work out, rinse off right away in a warm shower.
Stress levels also play a role in inflammation of your skin, so find ways to lower your stress level and make sure you have plenty of time to relax.
One Oil Can Do It All
SciaEssentials DELTA-5 has the ability to not only alleviate irritation, but can help to improve the skin’s barrier function. It contains linoleic acid plus sciadonic acid, a key fatty acid, to help build and improve the skin’s ceramide structure, making it a potent player in restoring the moisture balance. It’s an effective, yet gentle approach to reducing inflammation as it helps to decrease molecules that cause inflammation of the skin, helping to break the cycle.
It is gentle enough to use as a topical treatment by itself during times of a flare and versatile enough to mix with your moisturizer in between flares.
See how FutureDerm Media writer, Beth Zaccari, used DELTA-5 to clarify an eczema flare on her face this past summer here.