What is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to become reddened, itchy, cracked and dry, and the very origin of the word — coming from the Greek word ekzein meaning “to boil out” – conveys the disturbing look and feel of eczema flare-ups that can occur anywhere on the body. Also known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema, this condition creates the following symptoms on adults’ and on children’s bodies, as well as on infants:

  • Some areas of affected skin are itchy, and can lead to rawness if scratched
  • Some areas of affected skin feel dry
  • Some areas of affected skin may be broken or cracked in several places
  • Affected areas may be red and inflamed
  • Affected areas may develop blisters that can ooze liquid
  • Affected areas may have small, raised bumps
  • Affected areas may have red to brownish-gray patches
  • Itching is usually worse at night
  • Thickened skin may occur where eczema is scratched due to discomfort

During active flare-ups of eczema, which can last from a day or two to up to several weeks, skin may feel hot, itchiness may increase, skin may get even drier and scaly, blisters and bumps will ooze fluid, and infections can occur.

Eczema patches can be found anywhere on the body, but are often found on the hands, feet, arms, legs, behind the knees, ankles, face, neck, upper chest, wrists, and some people with eczema can experience affected areas around the eyes, such as on the eyelids, a truly dangerous location. Scratching itchy eczema patches near the eyes can cause infection, and loss of eyelashes and eyebrows. When babies get eczema, it often appears on the face, causing a big challenge in keeping little ones from doing great damage to their faces with scratching.

And school-aged children can suffer with the telltale scratches and bleeding, as well as sleep loss from the discomfort. Approximately 80% of atopic eczema can start before age 5, with many developing the condition from infancy to age 1. And studies around the world say that cases of eczema are on the rise.

A visit to the dermatologist is a must if eczema affects you or other adults, or your children. There are just too many dangers of scarring, infection and illness associated with eczema, and a doctor can help ease symptoms. Especially during flare-ups of this chronic condition, when symptoms can be intensely uncomfortable and the itching-scratching cycle can cause bleeding, scarring and dangerous infections.

Eczema is not just an unsightly rash that needs a cold compress. A doctor’s care is essential when eczema shows itself to be a part of your or your child’s life.


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