Have you developed eczema as an adult?
Adult-onset atopic dermatitis, also known as adult-onset eczema, is both under-recognized and also under-reported. Eczema that manifests itself any time after the age of 18 is considered to be adult-onset eczema.
Adult-onset eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition and symptoms might be mild or more severe, just as with eczema in children and youth. The exact cause of adult-onset eczema is not known. It could be genetic, environmental, or immunological.
There is a lack of awareness about this adult development. Many adults start to show signs of eczema conditions but do not realize that they have eczema. When eczema appears in adults, it can have different difficulties than in children. As with child eczema, conditions include dry, itchy skin that develops with red patches and these patches may become scaly, hard, crusted, and may ooze. However, after adolescence, the patterns of the eczema can be atypical. In adults, hand dermatitis and red facial eczema can dominate, and the eczema can take on symptoms of chronic lichenified, subacute, or psoriasiform dermatitis.
Eczema affects approximately 17% of the population. Eczema in adults can flare up suddenly and just as suddenly go into remission; it can be very unpredictable.
- If you’ve never had to worry about eczema before in the
past, you may not be cognizant of allergens and triggers. If you work with your
hands, you could be coming into contact with irritants that are triggering or
exacerbating your skin eczema. Be conscious about what you handle, and consider
waterproof, disposable gloves when doing work or being exposed to chemicals, detergents and soaps. Also, if hand eczema is stubborn use an
eczema emollient and eczema treatment gloves at bedtime. Your hands will thank you in the morning.
- Make sure your skin isn’t remaining wet for extended periods of time. That
goes for sweating too. Make sure to change your clothing immediately after
exercise. Shower or bathe, pat dry, and then moisturize. Sweat is an eczema trigger. Never let your skin
remain damp unless you are treating your eczema with wet wrap therapy.
- Check the air in your house. Is it dry? Consider using a humidifier. Also, be
sure to drink plenty of water to hydrate from the inside out.
- It may be
time to change your personal products. Soaps and lotions that contain perfumes
or chemicals might have worked for you in the past but could be triggering your
eczema now. Also, check your laundry detergent. Check out the National Eczema Association's Recommended products for eczema and make sure all products are fragrance free and hypoallergenic. Use a FREE and CLEAR laundry detergent and always use the extra rinse cycle especially on clothing, undergarments, sheets and towels.
- Do you have
seasonal allergies? What about food allergies or intolerances? Unfortunately,
allergies can develop or worsen suddenly, even as an adult, and it could be
worthwhile to do some allergy testing. Dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, corn, and
soy are all common allergens that could be triggering your condition. Cutting these food groups out one at a time for 2 weeks can really help you narrow down the culprit in the kitchen.
- What kinds
of fabrics are you wearing? Trade in synthetic fabrics for tencel® or 100% cotton.
- Moisturize frequently; not just every
day but several times a day. Don’t wait for your skin to show signs of eczema.
Keep moisturizers and emollients in convenient locations like in the bathroom,
near the kitchen sink, on your desk and nightstand, and in your purse. Always
moisturize immediately after bathing and after washing your hands.
- Limit the time spent in the shower or
bath. Hot water can strip dry skin of essential oils, so a lukewarm bath is
best. Use lukewarm water and mild soap or a non-soap cleanser. Be gentle with
your skin and avoid rubbing. Towel off gently.
Suddenly developing eczema, or mysterious skin conditions that you haven’t immediately recognized as eczema can be quite a shock to the system. See a doctor, preferably an allergist to discuss your skin condition and remember, you are not alone. With some effort, your adult-onset eczema can be managed and you can continue to enjoy a good quality of life with just a few changes to your regular routine.