Were you a scratcher when you were a kid? Did you constantly break out in ugly red rashes that itched so much? Did your mother would always promise you’d grow out of them eventually before slathering you with lotion all over? If you answered yes to all, then you probably had eczema, and unfortunately, even as a grown-up, you still might get it.
A common enough skin condition, you might know a person (or ten) who has it as well. If you’re not sure what it is though, we enlisted board-certified dermatologist Dr. Coreen Copuyoc to explain it further.
“Eczema is an umbrella term, which refers to red, inflamed, itchy skin,” Dr. Copuyoc tells us. You might also know it as dermatitis, which is the collective term for skin diseases that result in inflammation of the dermis. There are several kinds, depending on the how’s, why’s, and where’s of the condition; the most common is atopic dermatitis, which is what you usually have as a child. Regardless of the type of eczema though, she adds that they all manifest as very red, dry or moist, sometimes flaky skin localized in particular areas, such as where your skin folds, like your neck, groin, and inside your knees and elbows.
A lot of people get grossed out by the sight of eczema, especially when the symptoms are particularly severe. Dr. Copuyoc assures us though that eczema is neither infectious nor contagious, but shows up in people with a family history of atopy, which is defined as the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases, like asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies. Pre-existing skin infections, stress, hormonal changes, and other environmental factors (cold and dry weather, high and low humidity, dust mites) may also exacerbate eczema symptoms, making the afflicted noticeably flare up even when you never did before as a child.
The exact cause of eczema has yet to be determined, but most doctors focus their treatment of the condition on hydrating the skin and preventing flare-ups. “Eczematous skin lacks moisture because it fails to retain water. Therefore, to correct dryness, [using] moisturizing products such as lotions or creams up to four times a day is recommended,” Dr. Copuyoc explains. “Topical anti-flammatory steroid creams for two weeks at a time, phototherapy, anti-itch, and antihistamines” can also be used to treat outbreaks. The type of treatment depends on what’s been observed of the initial cause of the reaction.
Eczema is a chronic problem for many people, but thankfully, living with it is manageable, if a bit tedious. So if you want to avoid going around with bright red, nasty-looking rashes all over your body, it’s best you adopt a grooming regime that will keep the flare-ups at bay.
Here are our suggestions to avoid eczema outbreaks, with some recommendations from Dr. Copuyoc.
1) Keep your skin hydrated. So shower with lukewarm water (hot water dries out your skin!) and use only mild soaps and cleaners.
2) Moisturize! Two to four times a day is best. Avoid using lotions with fragrance or other irritants.
3) Keep affected areas clean. And don’t scratch them, no matter how itchy they feel. Scratching might break the skin, leaving it open to bacteria and further infection.
4) Apply medication to active flares. Follow your dermatologist’s advice and adhere to their prescribed treatment regimen.
Even though you didn’t grow out of it like your mom promised, at least there are ways to keep this condition down and tame the symptoms. Remember, eczema isn’t the worse thing in the world to have.
Dr. Coreen Copuyoc is a dermatologist who finished as Chief Resident of Dermatology of St. Luke’s Medical Center in both Global City and Quezon City, and is now board-certified by the Philippine Dermatological Society. She is currently holding clinic in several skin centers all over the metro. Follow her on Instagram as @coreenmd and find her at www.medifi.com if you need an online consultation.