Health A to Z

Eczema

Avoid these triggers to keep skin looking healthy and clear.

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Eczema, which is also known as dermatitis, is a skin condition consisting of skin dryness and inflammation. About 15 to 20 percent of the population suffers from eczema. Atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, affects about 17 percent of the Canadian population. Eczema usually begins within the first two years of life and is characterized by periods of clear skin and then recurrent “flares.” The condition is not contagious.

Eczema causes Some types of eczema are hereditary; having family members who suffer from hayfever or asthma also increases the risk of developing eczema. Stress and certain fabrics, such as wool, can trigger the skin condition. Avoiding triggers can help prevent eczema and keep skin healthy.

Eczema symptoms People with eczema have sensitive skin. Exposure to a trigger can induce itching, redness, and scaly and bumpy patches behind the knees, inside the elbows and on the face and hands. Some cases of eczema involve fluid-filled bumps that ooze and crust.

Eczema diagnosis/tests See your doctor who may be able to diagnose and treat the condition or may refer you to a dermatologist for treatment. Your caregiver will take your medical history to find out if you have any allergies and identify anything in your environment, such as moisturizers, that may be irritating your skin. Since stress can contribute to the condition, she may also inquire about your personal life and whether or not you’re experiencing stress.

Eczema treatment Hydrating skin with by using mild liquid cleansers and coating the skin with an emollient moisturizer afterwards can help prevent eczema flares. Using medications, such as corticosteroids, to reduce inflammation and itching may also help. Most children outgrow eczema.

Eczema prevention Avoid future eczema flare-ups by minimizing your contact with your triggers such as air pollution, pollen, mold, dust or certain foods. Keep your skin moisturized and prevent dryness by bathing less frequently. Be careful about new products; test them on a small area before use.

Outside resources
The Eczema Society of Canada
Canadian Dermatology Association

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