Eczema is a skin condition that produces rashes along with dry, sensitive skin. It currently affects over 30 million Americans.1 Both the cause and cure of eczema are unknown, but one thing is certain — unlike ringworm, dermatophytes are not responsible for this illness. It's understandable when people confuse eczema with ringworm, since both of them produce rashes. However, eczema has very different triggers that you need to be aware of, so that when you do happen to get eczema, you'll know how to address it properly.
Causes and Irritants
Medical professionals note that you may inherit eczema from relatives who have allergic rhinitis or asthma. Aside from those, two other unique factors can influence your chance of getting eczema:2
• Mother’s age during your birth — The older your mother’s age was when you were born, the more likely you'll develop the disease.
• Environment — Children are more likely to develop eczema if they live in higher social classes, urban areas with high pollution or colder climates.
Irritants such as soaps, detergents, shampoos, bubble baths, disinfectants and juices from certain fruits and foods may worsen eczema symptoms.3 Note that not all of these may have an effect on you, since eczema affects each person differently. If there are other irritants that exacerbate your symptoms but are not mentioned above, avoid them altogether.
Eczema is defined by three main symptoms:4
• A rash that can be mild or severe
• Dry, sensitive skin
• Intense itching, which may cause bleeding if you scratch too much
Eczema is also known to produce symptoms unique to each person. The following symptoms have been reported alongside eczema:
Red, inflamed skin
Rough, leathery patches
Oozing or crusting
Dark colored patches of skin
The treatment plan completely depends on the severity of your eczema. Medications may help manage your symptoms, but usually there is no need to take them. Small lifestyle changes can improve your quality of life. These include:5,6
• Taking warm showers — Showers that are too hot or too cold can dry out your skin, which may exacerbate your condition. Avoid staying in the shower too long as well.
• Avoid skin-drying soaps — Related to taking warm showers, avoid using harsh, drying soaps that may irritate your skin.7
• Reduce stress: Stress may be a factor in eczema attacks, so take the necessary steps to reduce it.
• Wear comfortable clothing — Clothing made from rough, scratchy material may trigger an attack. Friction from wearing tight clothing may also cause an attack.
• Groom your pets — If you have pets, keep them away from places where dander (a combination of dead skin cells and hair) can accumulate, such as the living room and bedroom.
Should you develop rashes and you don't know the cause, it's highly recommended you visit your doctor right away. Treating the rashes without professional guidance may worsen your condition and possibly even spread the disease to others, especially if the rashes happen to be ringworm.