5 Myths About Eczema
- Clear up these common myths about eczema.Feed a cold, starve a fever. Right? That’s one of the most enduring myths about illnesses, but it’s far from the only one. There are plenty of myths and half-truths about skin conditions like eczema, too. Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dry, itchy skin. It’s not contagious, but it can be irritating and even painful. But that’s all many people know about it. If you or someone you love has eczema, clearing up some of the myths and misinformation about eczema may help you cope better with this condition.
- Myth 1: There’s only one kind of eczema.Most people associate eczema with atopic dermatitis, which is the most common type of eczema and mostly affects children. A red rash develops in the creases of the elbow or knees, or perhaps on the wrists or neck, and then dry, itchy, scales appear. But you might be interested to learn that there are actually several other types of eczema. You might think you just have really dry, chapped or inflamed skin on your hands, but it could also be hand eczema. Exposure to certain chemicals and other irritants can cause this condition to develop. Constant contact with water, certain foods and soap can irritate your skin and cause contact dermatitis, but so can less-frequent exposure to chemical irritants or toxic substances. Dyshidrotic eczema causes scaly, itchy skin, as well as pain and blisters on the hands or feet. Neurodermatitis usually causes one or two scaly patches that itch intensely. The skin can thicken and become red and leathery and even lead to an open sore that bleeds. Poor circulation in the lower legs can cause swollen, irritated skin, and dry, itchy patches can appear over varicose veins in the legs, which is called stasis dermatitis. Later, sores can develop and weep, which can lead to scarring when they heal. Nummular eczema occurs when a series of tiny spots appear in a cluster on the skin, enlarge and form oval-shaped sores, usually on the legs, but they can also develop on other parts of the body.
- Myth 2: You always outgrow eczema.It’s true that atopic dermatitis typically affects babies and children. In fact, 90% of people who develop atopic dermatitis do so before age five. And it’s also true that eczema seems to clear up and even disappear for many children as they age into adulthood. But eczema can and does persist longer for other people, and the severity can ebb and flow. You could think that your eczema is completely gone, only to experience a flare-up. Also, atopic dermatitis isn’t the only type of eczema you can get. Others are more likely to affect adults. For example, stasis dermatitis tends to affect adults who have poor circulation, especially in their legs.
- Myth 3: Eczema is contagious.The exact cause of eczema isn’t known, although experts believe that a number of factors are possible causes, including allergens, a family history of eczema, and environmental factors. Bacterial infections on the skin or a dysfunction in the immune system could also contribute. We do know, however, that eczema is not contagious. But if you have open sores or blisters that get infected, it’s possible that you could spread that infection to other people.
- Myth 4: You should stay out of the water.If you’ve ever talked to anyone about eczema, you’ve surely heard this piece of advice: don’t get wet! Many people mistakenly believe that they should cut back on any activities that involve water. But the truth is you can take regular showers or baths, and you can even go swimming. When bathing or showering, you may want to opt for warm or lukewarm water, instead of hot water. If you’re experiencing a flare-up, you could add oatmeal or baking soda to your bath water to help calm your skin. Skip the harsh soaps for mild ones that won’t cause any irritation or remove too many natural oils from your skin. As soon as you exit the tub, however, immediate reach for the moisturizer! Applying a body oil or thick moisturizer twice a day can seal in moisturizer and reduce your skin’s chances of getting too dry.
- Myth 5: Eczema is just a skin condition.Eczema is a skin condition that can also have serious effects on your mental health and well-being. Many people with eczema have trouble sleeping, due to the itching and pain associated with their conditions. And others seem to be an increased risk for depression. If you’re experiencing any other troubling health conditions, be sure to consult your healthcare provider and ask for guidance. The more you know about your particular type of eczema, the better prepared you can be to address symptoms and flare-ups—and to counteract any myths that you might run into. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help.