3 Claims About Eczema That Are NOT True
Eczema is a very common skin condition that affects about 10% to 20% of infants. Although the majority of them outgrow the condition by their tenth birthday, some people have reoccurring symptoms throughout their lives. The onset of eczema is mostly associated with early childhood, but it is not exclusive for this period of life. Approximately 3% of adults, and one in five women, will develop the condition after the age of 30.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a type of skin inflammation, which manifests in various forms and with varying severity. Some of the symptoms are redness, itchiness, and dryness of skin. More severe forms may include pus-filled blisters and weeping. This makes the condition quite upsetting and painful. Many children find it hard to concentrate in school due to the irritating itching, while adults most commonly complain about the lack of sleep caused by discomfort. To make things worse, the most commonly affected areas are those with delicate and sensitive skin, such as face, neck, elbows, wrists, etc.
Even though the condition is relatively common, there are many old wives’ tales associated with eczema. It is time to debunk some of them.
Myth #1: Eczema is contagious
This is perhaps the most common misconception about eczema, but eczema is absolutely not contagious. Although the causes of the outbreaks are pretty individual and not always clear, it is known that a mixture of genetic, immunity and environmental factors causes them. Eczema is basically skin’s reaction to some kind of irritant. Just like an allergy cannot be ‘caught’ from another person or ‘given’ to them, eczema cannot be transferred by touch or contact with the person who has it. There are some indications that eczema might be hereditary. If you have a family history of allergies and asthma, you are likely to (but not necessarily) develop eczema at some point.
However, the condition may seem to be “contagious” – it can quickly spread to other areas of the body, because the agent that caused the outbreak in the first place is ‘contagious’. For example, if a chemical contained in your hand cream caused an outbreak on your hands and later you touch your face with those hands, the irritating agent will cause the same symptoms on your face skin as well. This is one of the reasons why many people with eczema avoid visiting public swimming pools for fear of spreading the disease. While the chlorine in the swimming pools can worsen your eczema, there is no chance of infecting anyone else.
Myth #2: Eczema is a sign of poor hygiene
As we’ve already mentioned, the causes of eczema are multiple, but none of them has anything to do with personal hygiene. In fact, people who suffer from eczema have a tendency to bathe more frequently in order to replenish the lost moisture and thus soothe the irritation. This often leads to over-cleansing and stripping away the skin’s natural oils, making the condition even worse.
So far, it is known that eczema is an overactive immune system’s response to irritants. The triggers can be certain harsh chemicals (like sulfates), contained in soaps, laundry detergents, or toothpastes. Synthetic fabrics can cause irritation, if worn close to the skin. Emotional disorders, like stress and anxiety, and hormonal changes are common triggers. Everything we eat and drink can lead to eczema ‘flare-ups’. Avoiding dairy, refined sugar, and excess consumption of meat may improve the condition, same as consuming foods rich in enzymes, and antioxidants. Too hot weather, too cold weather, or too windy weather can cause eczema. It can also be triggered by animal dander. Most often, eczema is a symptom of some other underlying condition and your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, so take it very seriously and try to discover the real cause.
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Myth #3: Eczema cannot be controlled
Though there is no known permanent cure for eczema, keeping it at bay is not impossible. Steroids have been used to treat eczema, but they have a limited, often temporary effect. Besides that their prolonged use involves some health risks, like hyperpigmentation, thinning and cracking of the skin, etc. The only case in which steroids are an inevitable part of the treatment is an advanced eczema with bleeding scabs. If a child does not outgrow eczema during childhood, or if a grown-up develops it later in life, the disease will most probably visit them occasionally throughout their lifetime.
Nevertheless, the severity of the condition and the frequency of the outbreaks is something that can and should be controlled. To prevent an outbreak, people can practice stress relieving techniques, use organic skin care products that contain no synthetic ingredients and are milder to the skin, or pay attention to their diet.
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Removing any factors from their environment that might be causing the irritation is essential. If eczema manifests, it is important to provide the optimal conditions for the skin to heal itself. First, the so-called itch-scratch cycle must be broken. The itch can sometimes be so insanely intense that people scratch themselves until they bleed. This leads to more irritation and more itching, and it goes on and on. To minimize the discomfort, the skin must be properly moisturized with emollient ointments, lotions or creams. Drinking plenty of water will rehydrate the skin from the inside. Skin’s protective barrier can also be repaired by replenishing lipids and adjusting the skin’s pH.
It is important to understand eczema in order to better control it and not let it control the quality of one’s life.
Do you or someone you know suffer from eczema? How do you manage the condition? Let us know in the comments!
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