Girl in Big Sunglasses - smallWhat is eczema and why do I have it?

Note: This blog is the first in our three-part series on Living Well with Eczema.   My #EczemaEmbarassment was a serious problem. Every time the itchy, red patches flared up on my cheeks, hands and inner elbows I would dread going out in public and, even in 80 degree weather, hide behind long sleeves and makeup so people wouldn’t stare. I kid you not - one time I went the entire day with my collar popped just to hide the scaly red spots on my neck. I still turned some heads, but at least it wasn’t because of my eczema.   After that incident, I decided enough is enough. We can’t go through life with our collars popped, right?! (That’s a metaphor, by the way). Since then, I’ve committed to understanding my eczema and tackling its causes at the source. My skin, and my confidence, have been all the better for it.   So, as the hot weather rolls in (and those red patches threaten to rear their heads again), get smart about your eczema. This summer, don’t let your skin keep you from enjoying the park, beach or barbeque - with a little knowledge and the right strategy, you can learn to live well with eczema.   Know you’re not alone Dealing with physical and psychological discomfort of eczema can profoundly affect the lives of those who suffer from it. So much so, in fact, that eczema support groups and hotlines are popping up in cities around the globe as well as in online communities to help people cope with the stigma of living with the skin condition.   An eczema flare up, especially in a visible spot like the hands or face, is often accompanied by a feeling of self-consciousness or even loneliness, if a lack of self-esteem causes us to withdraw from social situations.   But did you know that 1 in every 10 people in the US suffers from eczema (and the prevalence is even higher in children)? That’s 31.6 million people (not to mention family, friends and loved ones) who know exactly what you’re going through.   Given that eczema affects so many, extensive research has been done by scientists, medical professionals and concerned moms alike. The solutions are out there! But defining your strategy to live well with eczema is a matter of knowing your triggers and finding the right balance of physical remedies and lifestyle changes that work for you personally.   Understand your eczema So, chances are you or someone you know suffers from eczema. The most productive step you can take towards tackling your symptoms, or supporting a friend or loved one to do so, is getting informed.   If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that eczema is a condition that can cause the skin to become itchy, red and inflamed. If you yourself have eczema, you definitely know that it can be uncomfortable, frustrating and embarrassing at times.   To tackle your eczema effectively, it’s important to understand which variety you may have. Let’s run through the most common types: 1Atopic dermatitis (AD) Just over half of Americans that experience eczema suffer from atopic dermatitis, its most common form. AD tends to crop up on the legs, arms and face as a dry, itchy red rash and is closely linked to asthma and hay fever, which experts call the “atopic triad” (It sounds like a superhero group - way too cool of a name to give this, if you ask me). According to the National Eczema Association, people who experience those 2 conditions or have genetic relatives that do, are more likely to develop AD. Unfortunately, unlike other eczema varieties, AD tends to be a chronic condition. But, never fear, its effects can be mitigated through the right treatment! 2.  Contact dermatitis (CD) Unlike AD, contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into contact with something to which it’s allergic or irritated, causing dry and itchy red patches. You may not even know that you’re allergic to a one of these substances until you’re exposed. Learn more about substances that commonly cause CD and how you can avoid them here. 3. Other less common forms, such as dyshidrotic eczema, hand eczema and neurodermatitis.   By taking careful note of when and where your symptoms appear, you can work with your doctor to determine which variety of eczema you may be experiencing and start working towards a solution.   Come up with a strategy that works for you Okay, so now that you’ve done your research and spoken with your doctor about your particular symptoms, you’re pretty much an eczema expert - do I daresay an ecz-pert”??   Sorry, that was too much.   Now it’s time to turn that knowledge into a tailored strategy that combines physical treatment and lifestyle measures that target your triggers at the source. Check out Parts II and III of our blog series Living Well with Eczema to learn more!