Managing Adult Eczema

Managing Adult Eczema

Elizabeth Scott

Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis as it’s also referred to can be miserable condition. If you’re over 18 and have just discovered you have eczema you aren’t alone. Eczema affects 1 – 3% of the adult population. It is both under-recognized and under-reported as many people may not realize that the itchy rash or dry patches they're experiencing are in fact eczema. Eczema can be caused by an allergy to food or your environment, a genetic predisposition or an immunological condition. Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition so learning how to manage it is key to your comfort.

Adult symptoms might be mild or more severe, the same as children experience. The itch or “puritus” as it’s called, can be intense and can affect sleep, mood and quality of life. As with childhood eczema, conditions include dry, itchy skin that develops with red patches that may become scaly, hard, crusted, and may ooze. However, after adolescence, the patterns of the eczema can be atypical. In children it can present all over the body, but for adults it tends to show up as hand dermatitis or in the creases of elbows and knees, ankles and often around the eyes and eyelids. It can occur in other parts of the body as well. And if left untreated, serious eczema can become infected so it’s important to have it checked by an allergist or dermatologist.  A daily skin care routine is helpful to manage the condition and protect your quality of life and prevent infections. Below we share some tips to help.

Adult Eczema Tips:

1. Hand dermatitis can be confusing as you may not know what allergens or triggers are causing it. If you work with your hands, you could unknowingly come in contact with irritants that are triggering or exacerbating your skin eczema. Consider wearing non-latex, waterproof, disposable gloves when doing work or being exposed to chemicals, detergents and soaps.

2. Maintaining moisture is key.  If hand eczema is stubborn and you need some relief at home, try applying an eczema emollient on top of damp hands and then wear cotton gloves at bedtime. This can help relieve the itch and plump up the dry skin on your hands.

3. Sweat can be an eczema trigger. Bathing and showering will help to remove allergens and sweat/bacteria from your skin and prep your skin for moisturizing. Shower or bathe, pat dry, and then moisturize on top of damp skin with your favorite cream or emollient. 

4. If you live in a dry climate or it happens to be a dry season in your area, use a humidifier in the rooms you spend the most time in. Follow manufacturer directions and keep it clean.

5. Drink water and keep hydrated especially if you live in a dry climate you may require more water each day.

6. Check your personal products including shampoo, face wash, body wash, and detergent for any ingredients that may cause skin irritation such as fragrance, dyes and alcohol. National Eczema Association website is a great resource and includes a lists of NEA Seal of Acceptance products for people with eczema. Using the extra rinse cycle especially on clothing, undergarments, sheets and towels can also help.

7. If sweating at night is a trigger look for cool bedding such as sheets made with TENCEL® fiber or made of linen. Be certain to wash your sheets often.

8.Allergies either environmental or food allergies may be contributing to your eczema. It may be helpful to test for allergies so you can avoid them or use a season allergy medicine to help control your itching.

9.Dressing in soft and lightweight clothing during the day and at night can be soothing to itchy skin. Look for fabrics made with TENCEL® or 100% cotton. Even bamboo fabrics can be very soft and soothing and there are many good brands available today.

10.Try wet wrapping areas of eczema which can help to reduce the itch and provide much needed moisture. AD RescueWear carries sleeves that can be used on arms and leg areas as well as gloves for hands.  And remember to frequently apply your moisturizer or emollient. It’s best to look for formulas that are alcohol and fragrance free.

Unfortunately, eczema doesn't have a quick fix. Developing a good daily cleansing and moisturizing routine can be the key to improved quality of life. Talk with your doctor if you have questions, especially if you suspect an infection.