Eczema is a general term that refers to several health conditions that lead to irritated, inflamed, and itchy skin. While eczema is most common in children and babies, anyone can develop this condition, even if you’ve never had signs of it in the past.
The most common symptoms of eczema include:
- Intense itching
- Dry and sensitive skin
- Redness, inflammation, and areas of swelling
- Leathery, roughened, or scaly patches
- Discolored or dark patches of skin
Eczema symptoms can vary in severity from mild to severe, and it’s possible to experience multiple symptoms at once. Some individuals have a single flare-up, while others struggle with uncomfortable symptoms throughout their entire lives.
There’s no cure for this common condition, but Dr. Lisa Hitchins at Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston offers personalized eczema treatment. This October, in honor of Eczema Awareness Month, Dr. Hitchins shares five tips for avoiding eczema flare-ups.
Know your triggers
The exact cause of eczema isn’t known, but several factors can trigger a flare-up. By identifying the substances that irritate your skin and avoiding them, you can significantly reduce your eczema flare-ups.
Common eczema triggers include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Fragrances, soaps, beauty products, and household cleaners
- Antibacterial ointments, like bacitracin
- Metals, especially nickel
Certain chemicals commonly found in household products, like formaldehyde, can also cause skin irritation. Even natural substances, like the liquids from fresh fruit or vegetables, can cause eczema flare-ups in some individuals.
Don’t skimp on the moisturizer
The outer layer of your skin acts as a protective barrier against irritants, bacteria, and allergens. When you have eczema, this area of your skin is often damaged, which leaves you vulnerable to itchy and chronically dry skin. When this occurs, it’s harder for your skin to retain water and your eczema can grow worse.
Keeping your skin properly moisturized is an essential step in controlling eczema. By moisturizing regularly, you can help protect the outer layer of your skin, which acts as a protective barrier against irritants, bacteria, and allergens.
While it’s important to moisturize regularly, it’s essential to use a product that safe to use with eczema. Dr. Hitchins can help you select a moisturizer that’s suitable for your form of eczema and provide detailed recommendations on ideal applications — for example, moisturizing within three minutes of bathing to achieve optimal results.
Recognize the importance of a proper bathing routine
When you have eczema, it’s common to have dry skin. But regular moisturizing isn’t the only way to keep your skin properly hydrated; regular bathing can also control flare-ups.
Proper bathing routines that help manage eczema include:
- Bathing or showering daily
- Using lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes
- Avoiding hot water and scrubbing
- Using only small amounts of gentle cleanser
- Moisturizing each time you come in contact with water, even when washing your hands
Dr. Hitchins can offer recommendations on bath cleansers to leave you clean and fresh without causing skin irritation.
Learn to manage your stress
Two of the most common triggers of eczema are emotional stress and anxiety. This response is due to your body’s “fight-or-flight” response that increases the production of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline.
When your body has too much cortisol, it can affect your immune system and lead to skin inflammation. Finding ways to manage your stress and reduce your anxiety by avoiding certain situations or practicing stress management techniques, you can significantly reduce your eczema flare-ups.
Develop a relationship with a medical provider
When you’re living with eczema, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. By developing a long-term relationship with an experienced dermatologist that you trust, you can learn to take proper steps to control your symptoms and reduce the severity of your condition.
In addition to helping you identify your triggers and developing a skin care regimen to manage your eczema, Dr. Hitchins also provides therapies, like antihistamines, antibiotics, and prescription lotions, ointment, and creams. She also offers immunosuppressant and topical immunomodulators for difficult-to-treat eczema cases.
To learn more about preventing eczema flare-ups, call us at Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston or schedule an appointment online today.