Eczema Awareness Month- Addressing the Stereotypes About Eczema
October is the Eczema Awareness Month, an opportunity to address the stereotypes about eczema. This chronic inflammatory skin condition is characterised by dry skin patches that are red and itchy. It impacts the quality of life of those affected and their families. As eczema can negatively impact with social interactions, work, relationships, and self-image, the National Eczema Association (NEA), a non-profit patient advocacy organisation strives to promote greater understanding and create an atmosphere of support.
NEA’s mission is to improve the health and quality of life of eczema patients through support, research, and education. Founded in 1988 by a group of patients, parents, and medical professionals, this organisation helps people with eczema to lead healthier lives with their families. It is active throughout the year to promote eczema awareness, break through the stereotypes and address the critical issues to patient care.
Further, it provides a network of support groups, a website with the latest research and treatment information, and a Seal of Acceptance program for over-the-counter products to help eczema sufferers navigate the numerous products for their daily skincare regimen. All the NEA programs and services are beneficial for eczema patients and their families.
Addressing the Stereotypes About Eczema
With a high disease burden arising from dermatological conditions in Singapore, as per the National Skin Center (NSC), eczema ranks at number one among the top 10 skin conditions. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition resulting in dry, itchy skin. Though the ailment is relatively common, experts don’t know exactly why some people get it, and others don’t. Perhaps with so many myths surrounding this skin condition, here’s addressing the stereotypes about eczema:
1. Eczema Will Clear Up on Its Own
If your child has started showing the signs of eczema, treating eczema quickly is the key to keep it from becoming more inflamed and problematic. More inflammation can lead to more scratching, and eventually, it can lead to a bacterial infection that could worsen their skin condition. According to Dr T. Thirumoorthy, Consultant Dermatologist and the Founding Director of the Singapore Medical Association Centre for Medical Ethics and Professionalism (SMA CMEP), recognising the pattern of the itch-scratch cycle is vital in reducing the consequent damage to the skin. Also, judicious use of antihistamines is beneficial.
Empowering the patient and family caregiver of a child, is significant in eczema skin care management. From medications to lifestyle changes such as keeping your kid’s skin moisturised, avoiding known food triggers and heat, there are many eczema treatment options available. However, the key is to treat it fast before the vicious cycle of itch-inflammation-infection begins.
2. Eczema is Contagious
That’s not true. Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis says that eczema is a genetic condition and not contagious. If you have eczema, there’s no way you’ll give it to anyone else by touching someone else’s rash and the reverse is true.
3. Eczema is Caused by Stress
Stress doesn’t cause eczema, but it can trigger this skin condition and make it worse. As per Dr Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, ‘the release of stress hormones can aggravate the skin inflammation.’ Stress can make you more likely to scratch as you become more irritable, which could lead to worsening your eczema symptoms. Considering the relation between stress and eczema, practising meditation or exercises can help to keep your skin condition under check.
4. Eczema Can Be Cured
There’s no way to cure eczema. However, it is possible to put it into remission. Use moisturiser as a tool to help you tackle the itchiness and dry skin in eczema. Dr Crutchfield recommends using a gentle body wash in a short shower followed by using a hydrating moisturising cream. Use topical inflammatory medications available over the counter or through a prescription in severe cases of eczema.
Dr Michele Green, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist says ‘Some people may need oral medication to lessen the itching.’ Dr Crutchfield says his patients have also seen success with gentle phototherapy treatment. Though eczema won’t go away 100%, there are numerous treatments and lifestyle changes that can help to keep it under control.
5. A Family History of Eczema Means Your Baby Will Have It, Too
According to a study published in the Journal of Paediatrics, around 60% of eczema cases show up within a baby’s first year. As eczema is genetic, having family members who battle eczema increases the risk of your child having it too. Dr Crutchfield says that it is possible to reduce their chances. As per an October 2014 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers concluded that using a moisturiser daily can help reduce your baby’s likelihood of developing eczema.
6. Eczema is a Superficial Issue
Though eczema may seem like a concern for people who are preoccupied with their looks, its impact is more than skin deep. Dr Crutchfield says, ‘Eczema is extremely disturbing, itches profusely, and can cause a complete lack of attention to the normal daily activities. When you are miserable, and your skin is itching, you are unable to study, complete your job successfully, or enjoy social relationships. Your quality of life is greatly decreased.’
7. Eczema is an Individual Problem
There’s no such thing as suffering alone. Crutchfield says ‘When a person has eczema, the entire family is affected.’ That’s because it takes time and resources away from other activities and members of the family. Eczema can affect the social interaction between the couples, their children, and other family members. For someone who takes medication involving excessive drowsiness as a side effect, it can trickle down to affect their mood. Also, it can impact their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Eczema causes the skin to become red, dry, bumpy, and itchy. It damages the skin barrier and makes it more sensitive and prone to infection and dryness. Eczema doesn’t harm your body, nor it means that your skin is infected or dirty. Though this skin condition can be lifelong, its symptoms can be managed by reducing the itchiness and discomfort and preventing infection and flare-ups. Read more about child eczema skin care management here.