Eczema: the facts
If you suffer from the dry, itchy skin and scaly red patches that are hallmarks of eczema, you’ll want to get the latest intel on preventing and treating this chronic inflammatory skin condition.
How to tell it’s eczema
Know your symptoms. “Your skin becomes dry, itchy, and easily irritated, and there can be a rash with skin that is scaly and thickened,” explains dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, MD. People tend to get the rash on certain parts of the body depending on their age. Common sites for babies include the scalp and face (especially the cheeks), the front of the knees, and the back of the elbows. In children, common areas include the neck, wrists, legs, ankles, the creases of elbows or knees, and between the buttocks. In adults, the rash often appears on the elbows and knees and on the nape of the neck, sometimes accompanied by a yellowish to light brown crust or pus-filled blisters.
Scratching makes eczema worse
Anyone who’s ever had hives or a mosquito bite knows how powerful the urge to scratch can be, but especially with eczema, it can lead to a vicious itch-scratch cycle. “The initial itch prompts the patient to scratch, which provides transient relief,” explains Steven Q. Wang, MD, director of dermatology and dermatologic surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New Jersey, USA. “However, the scratching motion creates micro tears in the skin barrier and triggers inflammation, which leads to more itch.”