For those who are unaware as to what eczema feels or looks like, it is an inflammatory condition of the skin, where it becomes itchy and dry. Ultimately it can become very painful, especially for those who relieve the itch through scratching. It is common for redness and swelling to show up on affected areas, and for blisters to form and then erupt, covering the area in a thin film of discharge. It tends to affect areas where there are folds in the skin, such as elbow creases and the backs of the knees, but is in no way limited to these places.
Eczema can affect you in early stages of life as well as in adulthood. If you encounter eczema as a child – particularly atopic eczema, which has no well understood cause – then it becomes less active during adolescence in up to 70% of cases and sometimes disappears completely. However, this does mean that eczema does carry on in many cases into adulthood.
Contact eczema is more commonly developed in adulthood due to, as the name suggests, things that we come into contact with. For adults prone to eczema outbreaks potential irritants are everywhere. Harsh soaps should be avoided and some sufferers also find that it’s worth staying away from moisturizers and skincare products that contain parabens- look out for ‘paraben’ free on the label.
The main course of action for long term use in adults is a good emollient. Used as and when needed, either as part of bathing or just general use, the emollient retains moisture in the skin and acts as a preventative against contact eczema. A good tip is to apply the cream just after a bath or shower, when the skin is already moist.
Should someone experience an acute flare-up of their skin, then corticosteroids or steroid creams are sometimes used. These preparations come in different strengths and types dependent on the severity of the flare-up and also on the affected area. Hydro-cortisone creams quite common and you’ll need to visit a GP for the right prescription if the condition gets severe enough to warrant this kind of treatment.
These creams generally need to be applied to the affected areas several times a day in order but there is a catch. Sadly, overuse of hydrocortisone could actually be a hindrance to long-term treatment of eczema, as they tend to thin the skin making further flare-ups more likely. There are alternatives to such creams and ointments, one of which is antihistamines – usually these are prescribed in tablet form. However, these have not been proven to be as effective as steroid creams and are instead used to reduce irritation as opposed to aiding fast recovery from a flare-up.
As there is no cure for eczema in adults, but correct and careful treatment is a must and most sufferers are able to find a combination that cuts down irritation and inconvenience to a minimum. Just don’t scratch- it won’t stop the itching and can lead to infection.
Ben has suffered from eczema since he was eight years old, and has tried and tested many different treatments in his time. He writes for Escentual.com, a company carrying high quality skincare products from brands like 3Lab and Vichy.