September 15-21 is designated as National Eczema Week. As a caregiver, one of the best things you can do if you suspect your loved one may be suffering from eczema is to learn more about this condition. Take some time during the week of September 15-21 to learn about the various forms of eczema, what causes it, and what you can do to treat and manage it.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that flares up on different parts of the body, causing the skin to become itchy, red, and inflamed. It is common in children (usually appearing on the cheeks and chin), but anyone can develop the condition. Elder adults can develop eczema, even if they never experienced it as a child.
There are many different forms of eczema, and a person can have more than one form at a time. The most chronic form is called “atopic dermatitis,” which is allergen-related. Over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema. In severe cases, it is important for a doctor to determine which form of eczema is occurring so that it may be properly treated.
If your elder adult has developed eczema, he or she may be experiencing common symptoms, which may include:
- Dry skin
- Itching (especially at night)
- Red or brown patches on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, or inside the bend of the elbows and knees
- Small bumps that may contain fluid and may become crusty when scratched
- Thick, cracked, scaly skin
- Raw, swollen skin from scratching
However, eczema affects every person differently. If you are unsure whether your elder adult is developing eczema, you should consult a doctor.
Different Types of Eczema.
There are several types of eczema:
- Atopic dermatitis (caused by environmental allergens)
- Contact dermatitis (caused by contact with allergen or irritant, such as latex, bleach, jewelry, poison ivy, which causes an allergic reaction)
- Dyshidrotic eczema or “hand eczema” (caused by exposure to chemicals; more common in women)
- Nummular eczema (round, coin-shaped spots caused by allergic reaction to insect bites or certain metals or chemicals)
- Seborrheic dermatitis (mostly affects the scalp or oily areas of the body, such as the face, upper chest, and back)
- Stasis dermatitis (caused by poor blood flow in the lower legs; causing legs to swell and varicose veins to form)
- Neurodermatitis (typically on the neck, wrists, forearms, legs or anal region)
What Causes Eczema?
Normal, healthy skin helps your body to retain moisture. That moisture helps protect against allergens and bacteria. Persons with eczema may have a genetic condition that reduces the body’s ability to retain moisture and protect against many allergens and irritants in the environment. Thus, when eczema flares up, you may experience asthma or hay fever. Although eczema is genetically related, there are environmental triggers that can affect the moisture in the skin and cause an eczema outbreak.
How You Can Treat Eczema.
Although there is no cure for eczema, there are a variety of treatments available that can relieve the painful itching, and there are many things you can do to help prevent new flare-ups. Some of the medicines that can treat eczema include:
- Antihistamines to control the itch
- Corticosteroid cream
- Oral steroid treatments to reduce swelling (for more severe outbreaks)
- Calcineurin inhibitors to reduce the immune response that causes red, itchy skin
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Ultraviolet light therapy to heal the rash
- There are also things you can do to manage the symptoms of eczema or reduce the risk of new outbreaks:
- Apply cool compresses to reduce itching and more easily absorb corticosteroid cream
- Take short baths in colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to relieve the itch
- Moisturize your skin regularly with an oil-based cream or ointment after showering or bathing to protect the skin and retain moisture
- To dry the skin after bathing, always dab or blot the skin with a clean, soft towel; never rub the skin to dry
- Avoid scratching to avoid infection
- Use only fragrance-free soaps, detergents, cleansers, makeup, and skin care products
- Always wear gloves when handling detergents and chemicals
If the condition continues, becomes infected, or significantly affects your elder adult’s sleep and daily activities, he or she should see a doctor, who can evaluate the skin and inquire about symptoms. Your home care service can assist you in managing this condition in your elder adult.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elder care in San Jose, CA, please contact the caring staff at Home Helpers today (408) 259-5930.