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What Is Eczema?

What is eczema?

Story at-a-glance -

  • Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes dry skin and red, itchy patches
  • The exact cause of eczema is still unknown, although it is believed to occur due to a combination of factors, such as viral and environmental conditions

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes dry skin and red, itchy patches. In some cases, the patches may ooze, harden or turn scaly.1 This condition’s name originated from the Greek word “ekzein,” which means “to boil out.” However, the term “eczema” is also used to describe any kind of rash-like skin disorders, such as atopic dermatitis, the most common of these conditions.2

Eczema Is Caused by a Combination of Factors

The exact cause of eczema is still not known, although it is believed to occur due to a combination of factors. One major factor is your genetics, so there is a possibility that you inherited it from one or both of your parents.

Environmental factors, such as allergens, irritants, chemicals, microbes, hot or cold temperatures, food and stress, are also known to trigger eczema symptoms. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help you prevent flare-ups and manage your condition effectively, as well as help prevent serious complications.3  

Eczema Does Not Affect Everyone the Same Way

You should be aware that the symptoms of eczema are different for everyone. This skin disorder may develop in any part of your body, but it is typically found on the flexors (bends of your arms and back of your knees). Your symptoms may range from mild to severe, and can have a significant impact on your quality of life.4

Sometimes, eczema only causes mild to moderate itching, but there are times when the itching becomes severe, leading to extremely inflamed skin.5 When you scratch an area of your skin, the itching tends to get worse. At times, you may end up scratching until it bleeds. This is the infamous “itch-scratch cycle,” which will make your eczema worse.6 Doing this can cause infection, which is why you should avoid scratching the affected area no matter how itchy it gets.

How to Prevent Complications From Arising

A diagnosis of eczema should be taken seriously, as it can lead to severe complications if left untreated. For instance, it may cause an infection when the skin breaks, especially if bacteria, viruses or fungi penetrate into the deeper layer of your skin.7

One example of this is eczema herpeticum, a potentially fatal viral infection of the skin that’s caused by herpes simplex virus or other related viruses.8 Eye-related complications are also possible, and can even cause permanent damage to your vision.9 The good news is that complications are avoidable, as long as you are proactive in treating and managing your condition.

Always remember that controlling environmental factors and avoiding your triggers are the key to minimizing flare-ups and significantly reducing your risk of complications.


Eczema: Introduction

What Is Eczema?

Eczema Types

Eczema in Children

Eczema Causes

Eczema Symptoms

Is Eczema Contagious?

Eczema Versus Psoriasis

Eczema Treatment

How to Get Rid of Eczema

Eczema Diet

Eczema FAQ

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