As winter enters its harshest months yet, everyone’s skin is susceptible to the drying affects of the weather. Whether you realize it or not, the weather can play a large role in your skin and its ailments – including eczema.
Those of you who have experienced eczema are very aware of just how much worse it can get during the hard winter months.
To learn how to manage this chronic condition in winter months, we teamed up with our very own Dr. Shannon McKeen who answers some of your most asked questions about eczema and how it works against your skin.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a medical condition that affects the skin in various ways. It can result in rough, dry patches that may produce intense itching, blisters and bleeding skin if left untreated.
Occasionally, eczema is a reaction to various substances, known as eczematous dermatitis, but most often has no known cause.
Who gets eczema?
Did you know that eczema is actually a very common skin condition? It affects about 1 in every 10 people. Odds are, you know someone in your life struggling with it.
Dr. Shannon McKeen says, “Eczema can affect any age, ranging from newborns to elderly patients. It has a higher prevalence in patients that have a personal history of asthma or allergic rhinitis, as well as a family history of eczema.”
Basically, eczema doesn’t discriminate and can affect a wide range of individuals.
What causes eczema to flare up?
One of the most widely asked questions has to do with the cause of eczema and its flare-ups. Dr. McKeen dives deep to answer the cause for you.
“There are many different factors that can contribute to a flare of eczema. Anything that worsens the dryness of the skin can, in turn, worsen eczema. Therefore, the winter months can be very difficult for eczema patients due to the low humidity, hot showers and heaters running in the house.
Fragrances in soaps, lotions, laundry detergents and other personal care products can also aggravate eczematous skin. In rare cases, food allergens can contribute to severe and recalcitrant cases.”
In order to reduce the symptoms of eczema, pay close attention to your body and what substances you come into contact with prior to a flare up. This will help regulate your condition better.
What does eczema look like?
It’s important to understand what eczema looks like so you can accurately identify and treat it. However, as always, we recommend visiting your dermatologist to confirm before self-treating.
“Eczema can present as one small scaly patch or a diffuse itchy rash that covers the entire body. The distribution of eczema can vary with the age of the patient and the appearance can be different depending on how long the rash has been present.
Due to the wide variety of presentations and the fact that eczema can mimic other skin conditions, it is important to have the rash evaluated by a Dermatologist.”
Are eczema and psoriasis related?
Although eczema and psoriasis can, at times, have a similar clinical appearance, they are unrelated and also treated differently.
As noted above, there are numerous skin conditions that can have a similar clinical appearance to eczema, therefore an accurate diagnosis is essential for proper management.
How can you best treat eczema?
There are a few different ways in which eczema can be treated. First and foremost, always confirm your diagnosis with a dermatologist and listen to their expert advice in treating this condition.
Dr. Shannon McKeen has more tips for treating eczema:
“Healthy bathing habits are of the utmost importance in patients that have eczema. Historically, topical corticosteroids were the mainstay of therapy. In recent years, there have been new exciting therapies that do not contain steroids which can be used topically.
There is also a new injectable biologic medication that can help for severe cases of eczema that are difficult to treat with topical medications alone.”
Not all cases of eczema are the same, therefore patients should work with their Dermatologist to formulate a unique treatment plan for their specific needs.
Can eczema be cured?
Unfortunately there is no cure for eczema. However, there are many steps that can be taken to improve the overall health of the skin and reduce the frequency of flares.
With the variety of treatment options available, allowing a patient to be in control of eczema is now a therapeutic reality.
Eczema is a skin condition that can be both painful physically and emotionally. Always book an appointment with a trusted dermatologist to understand how it works so you can utilize a treatment plan that’s best for you.
About Dr. Shannon McKeen
Dr. McKeen is originally from South Bend, Indiana. She completed her undergraduate years at Ball State University, and as a chemistry/pre-medicine double major, won awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Performance in Chemistry.
Dr. McKeen attended medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she was one of two students in her graduating class to receive the Academic Achievement Award.
She spent her clinical years at University Hospitals Richmond Medical Center, and after medical school, stayed to complete a Dermatology-focused Traditional Rotating Internship. She completed her Dermatology residency at Lakeland Health in Saint Joseph, Michigan where she was appointed chief resident. After completion of her dermatology residency, she became board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology and gained Fellowship status from the American College of Osteopathic Dermatology.