Do I Have Eczema?

If you are reading this article chances are you have already asked yourself “do I have eczema”. Eczema has similarities to many other skin conditions, but we will break down what eczema is, risk factors and what to look for.

What is Eczema?
According to Dr. Michelle Cihla, board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology, “Eczema is a skin condition that causes the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. It commonly appears as dry or scaly patches and can develop anywhere on your body. It isn’t contagious, but develops because of a combination of environmental triggers and genetics.” Eczema is a very common condition with over 30 million Americans having some type.

Where on the body does eczema develop?
Common sites for infants include the scalp and face – especially the cheeks – the front of the knees, and the back of the elbows. In children, common areas include the neck, wrists, legs, ankles and the creases of elbows or knees. In adults, the rash often appears on the elbows and knees and on the nape of the neck.

Am I at risk for eczema?
The primary risk factor for atopic dermatitis is having a personal or family history of eczema, allergies, hay fever or asthma. If you or a member of your family has eczema, others may develop it too, as the condition seems to have a genetic component. Research has shown that in identical twins, 77 percent will both have eczema, but it affects both fraternal twins only 15 percent of the time.

Types of Eczema
There are eight different types of eczema that can develop:

1. Atopic dermatitis – caused by a malfunction in the immune system and problems with the skin barrier.
2. Contact dermatitis – a result of skin touching a known irritant and/or allergen.
3. Dyshidrotic eczema – occurs on the feet and hands as itchy blisters, usually caused by exposure to allergens.
4. Hand eczema – caused by a combination of genes, irritants and/or allergens.
5. Lichen simplex chronicus – results in thick, scaly patches on the skin, often caused by too much scratching and rubbing.
6. Nummular eczema/discoid eczema/nummular dermatitis – usually caused by allergens or very dry skin and appear as round lesions that can weep fluid, especially in older populations.
7. Seborrheic dermatitis – white or yellow flaky, greasy patches in places with more oil-producing glands, caused by a combination of genetics, hormones and microorganisms on the skin. In infants this is commonly referred to as “cradle cap”.
8. Stasis dermatitis – happens when poor circulation to the legs causes the veins to swell and leak fluid, causing swelling and skin redness and itch.

Treating Eczema
While living with eczema can be an ongoing challenge, the condition is manageable. Depending on the age and severity, treatment options may include prescription topical medications, phototherapy and biologics. According to Dr. Cihla, “if you are affected by eczema it is best to know your triggers to avoid exposure. Be consistent with your treatment plans and develop a daily moisturizing regimen to help sooth dry skin.”

Struggling with Eczema?
The board-certified dermatologists at Forefront Dermatology are specialists in eczema and eczema treatment. Find a dermatologist near you and schedule your consultation today.