If you continue to have severe eczema flares despite using topical or oral medications, it’s time to have a serious conversation with your doctor.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common condition that mostly affects children, but can also occur in adults. It’s estimated that about 15 million people in the United States have eczema.
While there’s no cure, recognizing factors that can worsen your symptoms may result in fewer flares. If you’re looking for information on how to better manage skin inflammation, here are seven questions to ask your dermatologist.
You might take advantage of a sunny, warm day by planning outdoor activities. Exposure to sunlight can provide a dose of vitamin D, and for many, sun exposure is a mood booster.
If you have severe eczema, too much sun exposure can make your condition worse. Overheating can lead to excess perspiration, resulting in an eczema flare.
In some cases, though, sun exposure may improve your eczema. The trick is not to overdo it. It’s fine to enjoy outdoor fun, but you might want to limit your skin’s exposure to direct sunlight. Stay as cool as possible, seek shady areas, or use an umbrella to block the sun’s rays.
Also, don’t forget to wear sunscreen. A sunburn can also cause skin inflammation and make eczema worse.
If you have trouble controlling eczema with creams and medications, your diet might be to blame.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition. Any foods that increase inflammation in the body can potentially make your condition worse. Inflammatory foods and ingredients include sugar, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, gluten, and dairy.
Avoiding these foods or limiting your intake can help reduce widespread inflammation. This has the potential to reduce your number of eczema flares, resulting in healthier-looking skin.
Getting severe eczema under control is important because it can lead to complications. Chronic dry and itchy skin can lead to persistent scratching. The more you scratch, the itchier your skin may become.
This can also bring on skin discoloration, or your skin may develop a leathery texture. Plus, you can increase your risk of injuring your skin and getting a skin infection.
Open wounds allow bacteria, viruses, or fungus to enter beneath the skin’s surface. Severe itching can also interfere with relaxation, making it difficult to sleep.
Some people with atopic dermatitis also have contact dermatitis. With contact dermatitis, eczema symptoms develop after contact or exposure to an allergen. This can include pollen, pet dander, dust, grass, fabrics, and even food.
If you’re allergic to peanuts or seafood and consume these items, your skin could break out into an eczema rash in response to the allergen.
Keep a food journal to identify possible food allergies. If your eczema seems to worsen after eating certain foods, remove these from your diet and monitor your skin for improvement.
Similarly, discontinue use of any soaps, perfumes, or detergents if eczema rashes appear after use. Eczema can also worsen if you’re allergic or sensitive to certain fabrics, like wool or polyester.
If you and your doctor have identified allergies that trigger your eczema, antihistamines can stop the allergic response.
Stress is another eczema trigger. Emotional stress doesn’t cause eczema, but it can put your body into an inflammatory state.
When under stress, the body releases cortisol, or the fight-or-flight stress hormone. In small doses, cortisol isn’t harmful to the body. It’s actually helpful. It can improve memory, boost energy, and even reduce sensitivity to pain.
Problems can arise when stress becomes chronic. The body continually produces cortisol, and too much of this hormone can cause widespread inflammation and worsen your eczema.
Learning how to manage stress can reduce inflammation. You can try stress-reducing activities like meditation or deep breathing exercises. Don’t overbook yourself or take on too many responsibilities, if possible. Also, know your limitations and set reasonable goals for yourself.
The goal of eczema treatment is to reduce skin inflammation, which then leads to less dryness, itching, and redness.
Other measures can reduce itching as well. Avoid skin irritants like harsh soaps, perfumes, or detergents. Apply moisturizer to your skin at least twice a day and use an anti-itch topical cream as needed.
If over-the-counter creams are ineffective, talk to your doctor about a prescription steroid cream.
Exercise can increase your brain’s production of endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of certain conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.
While exercise offers a multitude of benefits, it can also worsen eczema in some people. The reason is similar to why the sun exacerbates the condition. Exercise leads to excess perspiration, which can irritate eczema-prone skin.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid working out. Take steps to avoid overheating by staying cool during workouts. Exercise under a fan, take plenty of water breaks, and don’t wear too many layers.
Having an open and honest discussion with your dermatologist is one of the best ways to control your condition. While eczema doesn’t have a cure, you can reduce the frequency and severity of flares.
Living with this condition may become easier with the right guidance and learning how to manage your symptoms.