Eczema: What, Who, and How
Daily skincare for men tends to be fairly simple, starting with a gentle face wash and ending with a lightweight moisturizer and SPF sunscreen. If you suffer from eczema, however, skincare is anything but simple. An ever-changing array of symptoms ranging from dry, itchy skin to patches of redness or scaling can be difficult to keep up with. Eczema can keep you from looking and feeling your best.
Eczema is classified as a skin condition, but it is so much more than that. It affects up to 17% of Canadians at some point in their lives. If you suffer from eczema, it’s important to gain an understanding of what it is, how it affects you, and how it can be treated.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that is often chronic and long lasting. The most common symptoms of eczema include:
- dry skin
- patches of redness
- increased skin sensitivity
Symptoms may range from mild to severe, and it may look different on different parts of the body. Some patients develop rough, leathery, or scaly patches of skin that worsen with scratching. These patches can become inflamed or irritated, sometimes weeping clear fluid resulting in a crust. Eczema is not contagious.
Who Does Eczema Affect?
It can develop at any age and manifest more or less frequently throughout one’s life. Unfortunately, men seem to be less likely to outgrow eczema than women.
It affects 15 to 20 percent of children, and they usually experience their first flareup by 5 years of age. It is fairly common, however, for children to grow out of the condition or for it to improve as they get older.
The symptoms of eczema vary widely from one patient to another and may be triggered by irritants like certain cleansers, detergents, soaps, and skincare products. Some patients experience increased sensitivity to the sun and many notice flareups related to heat, sweating, and wetness. Your doctor can help you identify your triggers so you can better understand your condition. There is also a genetic component.
How Do You Treat It?
It is treatable, definitely! However, there is no known cure. Speak with your doctor or dermatologist to discuss your symptoms and receive treatment recommendations. You may also consider utilizing online primary care services or telephone health services to discuss your symptoms and receive treatment recommendations.
Dermatology specialists may recommend these types of treatments for eczema:
- Topical anti-inflammatories to reduce redness and irritation
- Phototherapy (or light therapy) using UVA and/or UVB light
- Medications to control the body’s inflammatory and immune response
In addition to following a dermatologist’s treatment recommendations, it’s important to keep your skin clean and hydrated. Take lukewarm showers to avoid drying out your skin, and pat dry your skin instead of rubbing. Apply facial moisturizer and a body lotion immediately after showering. It’s also important to identify the triggers that worsen your symptoms as well so you can avoid them in the future.
The best thing you can do to manage your eczema is to choose your skincare products wisely, especially if you don’t know what your triggers are. Avoid alcohol-based soaps and heavily scented products and use a gentle daily cleanser rather than body wash or soap. Products that contain artificial fragrance, dyes, and other chemical ingredients can cause irritation and compromise the skin’s natural protective barrier, so look for products made with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that can be difficult to live with, but it is treatable. Take what you’ve learned here and adjust your skincare routine to better protect your skin and talk to a qualified dermatologist or specialist about your symptoms to determine the best treatment plan.
If you want to learn more about eczema, check out these Canadian resources:
The Eczema Society of Canada.
The Canadian Dermatology Association