If You Only Read One Article About Eczema … Read This


By Steve Nelson

Published On: Sep 30, 2022

Last Updated On: Sep 30, 2023

It’s going to itch, it might hurt and you’ll probably lose a lot of sleep – but there’s an entire community of people ready to help you. We’ve all been there and we’ve got you covered.

Overview of the Eczema Basics

If you’re new to eczema (or a veteran looking to brush up on the basics), this is what you need to know:

  • It’s common – 1 in 10 people will experience eczema at some point in their lives;
  • It’s itchy, as in really itchy – the majority of people with eczema report uncontrollable itch;
  • Eczema appears differently in different skin tones; pale skin can become bright red and rashy, whereas darker skin tones can appear pale, grey, ashen or purple;
  • You can get eczema at any time in your life; most people first experience symptoms of eczema in their youth; babies can be diagnosed with eczema as early as six weeks of life; however, people in their 60s and 70s can also get eczema for the first time;
  • The word “eczema” comes from the Greek for “boiling over,” and there are seven distinct types of eczema, each with its own set of symptoms, including: contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis, nummular eczema, stasis dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis (the most common type); 
  • Eczema is a chronic disease that can last your entire life, with periods of intense flaring (when symptoms are at their worst) and months or even years of no symptoms at all;
  • For people with eczema, the skin barrier may be weakened, leading to a cycle of symptoms which, on their own, can contribute to even further skin barrier degradation, worsening symptoms and so on;
  • While there is no cure (yet), there are many ways to treat and manage eczema.

Three common misconceptions about eczema

First, eczema is not contagious – period. You cannot “catch” this skin disease the way you might catch the common cold or chicken pox. You can, however, inherit a genetic predisposition to eczema from your parents: identical twin studies show that if one identical twin has eczema, there’s a 75% chance the other twin will have eczema, too.

Second, eczema is much more than skin-deep. People with eczema are statistically more likely to have asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), food allergies, infections, depression, anxiety, sleep disruption and heart disease.

Third, no matter what anyone else says, you are the expert of your own body. Eczema affects everyone differently; no two cases of this skin disease are exactly the same. This means that having a conversation with your healthcare provider should be exactly that: a conversation, a shared dialogue in which you’re able to communicate your own lived experience with the condition in order to identify an affordable treatment that works best for you.

Three things you should do after receiving a diagnosis of eczema

Assemble your medical dream team. These are healthcare professionals, ideally, who have a deep knowledge of treating eczema AND can make you feel comfortable when listening to you describe your symptoms. Shared decision making between patients and providers have been linked to better outcomes for patients. Many medical support teams include your: primary care provider (pediatrician for kids), dermatologist and an allergist (if need be). Use NEA’s eczema provider finder if you need support finding a dermatologist with expertise in eczema. 

For many people new to eczema, the search begins immediately to identify your triggers. These are the factors in your body and environment that spur your eczema into a state of agitation (commonly referred to as a flare-up). For some people, identifying triggers is easy; for others, the process of identifying what causes your skin to flare can take more time, even years of trial and error. The hardest part is that it’s different for everyone – no two cases of eczema are alike.

No matter what your triggers, it’ll be important to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Eczema wreaks havoc on our bodies when our skin becomes excessively dried out. To combat this, each individual with eczema typically develops their own daily skincare routine to moisturize as often and as much as their skin needs.

What you need to know as a caregiver of someone with eczema

If you’re a caregiver of someone with eczema, remember this: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There may be times when your loved one needs immediate help, especially with the youngest members of our community; moreso, and what’s often overlooked, is that caring for someone with eczema can take place over an entire lifetime. The chronic nature of the disease may include many years of symptom-free life, followed by unexpected weeks of flaring skin.

As a caregiver, it’s also important to know when to ask for help. NEA is here for you, and we are an entire community of people with eczema and those who care for them, ready to help you.

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