Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Eczema Questions
1. Is eczema contagious?
While classic atopic dermatitis can have a familial predisposition – meaning multiple family members can be afflicted with the so-called “atopic triad”– eczema, allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) and asthma, eczema as a disease state is not contagious. However, the dry, scaly eczema patches are prone to Staphylococcus (“Staph”) infection, which is contagious. Therefore, eczema patients should be adequately treated.
2. Will my child ever get rid of eczema?
Most children do ‘grow out’ of atopic dermatitis or eczema by adulthood. Meaning, the disease dissipates over time. However, for some patients it persists into adulthood. For that reason, hydrating the skin with good barrier repair creams and emollients, possibly for a lifetime, is a good habit to start now.
3. How does eczema get infected?
Typically the intense scratching of itchy eczema patches leads to Staph infection. Staph can be under the fingernails and can seed a wound if the patient has been scratching. Research has also shown that many eczema patients are simply colonized with Staph bacteria. When the eczema flares, the Staph bacteria also increase leading to worsening of symptoms.
4. What is the difference between eczema and atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. It is chronic and inflammatory, usually caused by the immune systems response to an allergen or irritant inside or outside of the body.
5. How do I avoid Staph infection?
Keep nails trimmed short and avoid scratching the itchy areas. Wash hands frequently. Use mild cleansers on the eczema patches and keep the skin barrier as hydrated as possible.
6. Is eczema the same as psoriasis?
No. Eczema is a completely separate diagnosis and not related to psoriasis. They are not synonymous and are actually thought to be two different immune system pathways leading to each respective state. Having eczema does NOT mean you will get psoriasis.
7. Should I see a dermatologist for my eczema?
Yes. If you are experiencing dry, scaly, itchy skin, you should absolutely seek the care of a board-certified dermatologist. An easy way to find one in your area is to go to www.aad.org (American Academy of Dermatology) and click on the “Find a Dermatologist” button.
8. What should I look for in a moisturizer?
In general, ointments will be thick, greasy, and more solid (contain no water). They offer the most hydration, but are sticky and not as elegant to apply. Creams offer a nice alternative because they have excellent hydrating capacity, are a mixture of oil and water, and elegant upon application. Lotions contain the most water and are not as hydrating as creams and ointments.
9. Can you develop eczema as an adult?
A person can develop eczema symptoms at any age. However, classic atopic dermatitis usually begins in infancy or childhood and can sometimes persist into adulthood.
10. Why does eczema occur on specific parts of the body?
Some patients are prone to isolated patches of eczema, such as eczema on hands and feet. The term for this type of eczema is “dyshidrotic eczema,” and can even appear as small blisters on the hands. In the case of eyelid dermatitis, patients can react to a certain ingredient in a topically applied product such as cosmetics or eye cream.