How To Stop Itching Your Skin If You Have Eczema
Nothing is more frustrating than trying not to scratch your itchy skin, particularly if you have eczema. Try these expert-approved strategies to break the itch-scratch cycle.
“Dont scratch” is probably one of the bestand worstpieces of advice an eczema patient can receive. The skin condition, which is caused by an abnormal immune reaction that results in dry, red, cracked patches of skin, is only made worse by itching. Your nails damage the skin barrier, which then ramps up inflammatory molecules that exacerbate the itch, explains Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Whats more, chronic scratching may make you more susceptible to infections, since it’s easier for bacteria to invade the cracked skin.
But heres the rub: itching an eczema rash feels good.“Scratching induces a short term pain response that suppresses the itch,” says Dr. Silberberg. “Patients feel the short-term gain, but dont realize how it actually harms skin.” Your best way to dampen down the itch is to see your doctor for treatments, prescription or over-the-counter, that address the underlying problem that causes the itch. Although it may not be possible to stop itching once and for all, here are eight strategies that may help you keep your hands off.
Why Does Eczema Cause Itchiness
For most people, itchiness is the worst and most uncomfortable symptom of eczema and can often be the most difficult to treat. Itchiness may also lead to sleep problems for both the person with eczema and their family.
Skin affected by eczema releases certain chemical mediators messengers that stimulate the nerves. Additionally, the nerve fibres in people who have atopic eczema appear to be altered, with an increase in sensory fibres. This can cause even the lightest touch to produce a sensation of itch. These nerves then pass on the sensation of itch to the brain, and before you know it, you are scratching. This is called a neurogenic itch, due to nerve pathways being activated.
However, itchiness is not completely straightforward as there is another type of itch, called a psychogenic itch. This means that the itch is also stimulated by psychological factors these may be conscious or unconscious urges to scratch, brought about via habit or in response to stress.
Try not to say Dont scratch to children and adults who are scratching. This can create resentment and distress, and increase feelings of stress.
Risk Factors For Psoriasis That Spreads
Psoriasis is more likely to spread and become severe when it is left untreated. So treatment from a doctor who specializes in psoriasis can significantly reduce the risk that psoriasis will spread, or that the next flare-up will be worse than the last.
A family history of psoriasis, having another immune system disorder, smoking, trauma to the skin, and exposure to many psoriasis triggers are additional risk factors that might cause psoriasis to spread.
It is essential to moisturize the skin because it can speed the healing process and prevent itching. A range of moisturizing lotions that are suitable for psoriasis are available without a prescription.
Tar shampoo and soap may also help. Ingredients that encourage old skin cells to fall off, such as salicylic acid, can reduce the appearance of flaky plaques. However, some of these products can be harsh on the skin, so getting advice from a professional can help determine the most suitable lotion.
Steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, are also safe and effective for most people. They help with itching and can speed healing. Using steroid creams for a very long time may cause side effects, however, so talk to a doctor about the safe use of steroids.
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Other Causes Of Infected Eczema
An infection from Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, or other bacteria is just one cause of infected eczema. Others include fungal infections and viral infections.
People with eczema may be more prone to herpes simplex viruses, so its important to avoid others who have cold sores.
Eczema itself isnt contagious, and most infected cases usually arent either. However, some of the causes of the infection may be contagious to people who have eczema, such as exposure to herpes simplex.
If you have eczema with frequent broken skin, its important to take care around others who have herpes simplex. The telltale sign of this is usually a cold sore.
Wear Gloves To Protect The Skin On Your Hands
Wear vinyl or plastic gloves for work that requires you to have your hands in water. Also, wear gloves when your hands are exposed to anything that can irritate your skin. Wear cotton gloves under plastic gloves to soak up sweat from your hands. Take occasional breaks and remove your gloves. This will prevent a buildup of sweat inside your gloves.
Wear gloves when you go outside during the winter. Cold air and low humidity can dry your skin. Dryness can make your eczema worse. Wear clothes made of cotton or a cotton blend. Wool and some synthetic fabrics can irritate your skin.
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General Tips For Coping With Eczema
Other tips to manage your eczema include:
- Keep your fingernails short longer nails are more likely to injure your skin when you scratch.
- If the water in your area is hard or alkaline, consider installing a water-softening device.
- Swim in the sea in warm weather whenever you can seawater is known to reduce the symptoms of eczema.
- Use sun exposure for limited periods for example, when swimming at the beach. This can help relieve eczema symptoms. But be aware that ultraviolet radiation is a risk factor for skin cancer and premature ageing of the skin. Also, if sun exposure causes overheating, this can also aggravate eczema.
How Is Eczema Treated What Medications Are Used
Treating eczema can be difficult if the cause is something you cant control, like genetics. Fortunately, you may have some influence over your environment and stress levels. Do your best to figure out what triggers or worsens your eczema, and then avoid it. The goal is to reduce itching and discomfort and prevent infection and additional flare-ups.
Consider these treatment tips:
If your child has skin problems, such as eczema, you can:
- Avoid long, hot baths, which can dry the skin. Use lukewarm water instead and give your child sponge baths.
- Apply lotion immediately after bathing while the skin is still moist. This will help trap moisture in the skin.
- Keep the room temperature as regular as possible. Changes in room temperature and humidity can dry the skin.
- Keep your child dressed in cotton. Wool, silk and manmade fabrics such as polyester can irritate the skin.
- Use mild laundry soap and make sure that clothes are well rinsed.
- Watch for skin infections. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice an infection.
- Help them avoid rubbing or scratching the rash.
- Use moisturizers several times daily. In infants with eczema, moisturizing on a regular basis is extremely helpful.
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Itchy Skin & Eczema: Debunking Common Myths
Posted on: April 30, 2018 | Posted inMisc, News
Are you one of 30 million Americans who suffer with itchy skin? This rash is known as eczema, a condition that affects both children and adults. Symptoms such as rough patches and inflamed skin are common among eczema sufferers. Unfortunately, myths about eczema are floating around the Internet, causing people to delay treatment.
Discover the truth behind frustrating eczema myths:
Everything Youve Ever Wanted To Know About Eczema
Eczema can be a year-round torment for the 1.6 million adults affected in the UK, but winter causes particular misery. So how can you avoid it or treat it if you have it?
Winter can be grim: coughs, cold, flu and the general sense of malaise brought on by dark nights, too much food and not enough exercise. And to add to the misery, as the temperature plunges and the heating goes on, normally reliable and trouble-free skin can start to itch, flake and drive a person to distraction. Welcome to the onset of winter eczema. About 1.6 million adults in the UK live with eczema, many since childhood. It can be a year-round torment or flare up in the cold months. A recent Allergy UK survey of adults with eczema found that 88% say it has an impact on their daily lives, 58% say it affects personal relationships and 73% claim that their social life suffers. But despite the scale of the problem, adult eczema remains an underfunded, under-recognised and undertreated condition that can cause profound distress.
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What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis, though they believe that it may be due to an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast that naturally lives on the skin. Allergies do not cause seborrheic dermatitis. Genetics and hormones may also be a factor.
Risk factors for seborrheic dermatitis include the following:
- Certain neurologic conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease
- Certain diseases that affect the immune system, such as HIV or AIDS
Eczema Coping Tips Avoid Changes In Temperature
Abrupt temperature and humidity changes can sometimes irritate the skin for example, going in and out of air-conditioned buildings on hot days or heated buildings on cold days.Hard physical activity or exercise that makes you sweat heavily can also trigger the itch of eczema.Suggestions include:
- In winter, dont overheat your house. Dress warmly when going outdoors and remove the extra layers as soon as you return.
- In summer, dont over cool your house. Air conditioners can dry out the air and irritate your skin.
- Avoid hard physical activity in hot weather. For example, do your gardening first thing in the morning, or in the evening when the sun is lower in the sky.
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How To Use Emollients
Use your emollient all the time, even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, as it can help prevent the return of discoid eczema. Many people find it helpful to keep separate supplies of emollients at work or school.
To apply the emollient:
- use a large amount
- do not rub it in smooth it into the skin in the same direction that the hair grows
- for very dry skin, apply the emollient every 2 to 3 hours, or more often if necessary
- after a bath or shower, gently dry your skin and then immediately apply the emollient while the skin is still moist
If you’re exposed to irritants at work, make sure you apply emollients regularly during and after work.
Do not share emollients with other people.
What Is The Treatment For Seborrheic Dermatitis
Treatment for seborrheic dermatitis often involves long-term management and may include the following:
- Topical corticosteroids such as betamethasone or desonide for itching and redness
- Topical antifungals: ketoconazole , naftifine , or ciclopirox creams and gels, also for itching and redness
- Calcineurin inhibitors
- For acute flares, corticosteroid creams, lotions, or solutions
- For severe or unresponsive lesions, systemic fluconazole
Treatment of dandruff may include the following measures:
- Frequent shampooing or longer lathering
- Avoiding use of hair spray or hair pomades
- Use of shampoos with antifungal or antiseptic properties containing salicylic acid, tar, sulfur, or zinc selenium sulfide , ketoconazole, and ciclopirox
- Use of conditioner with zinc, 0.01% fluocinolone, and acetonide topical oil
- Applying tar, bath oil, Baker’s P& S solution, or Derma-Smoothe F/S oil overnight to loosen scales may be helpful.
The following are treatments for cradle cap in babies:
- Cleanse the scalp or affected areas with baby shampoo and use a soft toothbrush or fine-toothed comb to remove scaly skin.
- Apply a small amount of oil on the baby’s head and leave it on overnight to loosen scaly skin. Once the oil has loosened the scales, gently brush the baby’s scalp with a soft brush to remove the scales. Finish by washing the area with regular baby shampoo.
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Can Eczema Be Treated
Unfortunately, there is no particular treatment for eczema. Treatment generally involves management of symptoms. This can be achieved by altering the dietary intake, avoiding triggers, and management with the help of medications and lotions. Management of eczema is achieved by following these instructions.
- Moisturizing the skin Over the counter, moisturizing lotions and creams are prescribed to give moisture to the skin. A generous application of these lotions and creams can help with dry and scaly skin.
- Chemical-free soaps and shampoos Dermatologists prescribe medicated soaps that are free of chemicals and safe for the skin. This can reduce the irritation and burning associated with dry and cracked skin.
- Anti-inflammatory creams Anti-inflammatory creams made from steroids are prescribed in order to manage the inflammation associated with eczema.
- Antipruritics Since eczema involves severe itching of the skin, antipruritic medications are prescribed to manage these symptoms.
- Immune antagonist These medications help in reducing the immune responses which in turn can reduce the inflammation associated with eczema.
Signs And Symptoms Of Eczema
Eczema symptoms are generally divided into two categories namely acute eczema and chronic eczema. Acute eczema symptoms are short-term symptoms which come and go. This is generally caused due to a flare-up of an underlying condition such as stress or weakened immune function. On the other hand, chronic symptoms can persist for a prolonged period of time. It involves the same symptoms as noted in acute eczema such as redness of the skin, scaling, etc. Some of the common symptoms are discussed below.
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When Does Eczema Appear How Will I Know If I Have Eczema
Some forms of atopic dermatitis start early in life while others begin after 20 years of age. Rough, inflamed patches of skin may suggest eczema, particularly if the skin lesions intensify and then subside. The following criteria help physicians diagnose the disease:
- Skin changes that very with age
- Chronic and relapsing skin changes
How Infected Eczema Is Treated
The way you treat infected eczema depends on whether it was caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungi. Viral infections may be treated with antiviral medications or allowed to heal themselves.
Antibiotics are used in bacterial infections. Mild bacterial-infected eczema is treated with a topical antibiotic first. A steroid cream may also be used to reduce inflammation.
Oral antibiotics are reserved for more severe cases of infected eczema. Theyre also used for infections that have spread to other parts of your body.
A fungal infection may also be treated with steroids. Its treated with topical antifungal creams as well.
Some people prefer using natural treatments in addition to prescription medications. This is due to the long-term side effects of steroids, such as thinning skin.
You may consider the following natural treatments, as well as the pros and cons of each:
- herbal supplements for eczema flares, such as primrose oil
- essential oils, such as borage, evening primrose, and tea tree
- probiotics, to offset gastrointestinal side effects from antibiotics
- natural soaps and creams with emollients, to decrease skin inflammation
Be aware that natural treatments for eczema and skin infections havent been widely studied for safety or efficacy.
Make sure you discuss all these options with your doctor first before trying them out.
Infected eczema may lead to the following complications:
You may need to go to the hospital if you start experiencing:
- low energy
- excessive fatigue
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Can I Be Referred For Allergy Testing
Good luck the waiting lists are horrific in many areas its just not a high priority, although Allergy UK argues it should be. Patch testing can be used to identify which chemicals are responsible, but it helps to give some thought to likely suspects because there is a limit to how many chemicals can be tested for. Luckily, a relatively small number of chemicals cause most of the problems, so the commonly used standard battery of patch test allergens identifies 70% of the chemicals that commonly cause eczema, says Stevens.
Other Types Of Eczema
Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated skin.
Other types of eczema include:
- discoid eczema a type of eczema that occurs in circular or oval patches on the skin
- contact dermatitis a type of eczema that occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance
- varicose eczema a type of eczema that most often affects the lower legs and is caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins
- seborrhoeic eczema a type of eczema where red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp
- dyshidrotic eczema a type of eczema that causes tiny blisters to erupt across the palms of the hands
Page last reviewed: 05 December 2019 Next review due: 05 December 2022
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Conditions That Can Look Like Eczema But Arent
Evan Starkman Brunilda Nazario, MD
Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that can make your skin irritated, inflamed, and itchy. Your doctor may call it atopic dermatitis, which is also the most common type of eczema. Youâre more likely to get eczema when youâre a child, but adults can get it, too.
The symptoms you have and where they show up on your body vary from person to person. You might have one or more of these signs:
- Red patches on white skin
- Gray or violet-brown patches on dark skin
- Oozing or crusty skin from scratching
Several health problems can bring on similar symptoms, so itâs important to talk to your doctor, a dermatologist, or an allergist to find out whatâs going on with your skin. They might tell you that you have one of these conditions that looks like eczema but isnât:
Psoriasis. This long-term condition is partly due to your immune system attacking your skin by mistake. Both psoriasis and eczema can bring on symptoms like:
- Red, scaly patches
- Dry, cracked skin
Eczema patches tend to be thinner than psoriasis patches. Another difference: Fluid can ooze from your skin with eczema.
Scabies. This contagious condition happens when tiny bugs called mites burrow into the top layer of your skin and lay eggs. You might have symptoms like bad itching and a rash that looks like pimples. Like eczema, you could also get scaly-looking patches.
Acne. This skin condition can take several forms, including: