What is eczema, really?

We’ll start by running you through the science of eczema so we’re all on the same page.

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A person thinking, “What is eczema?”

The A-B-Cs of E-C-Z-E-M-A

While there are many types of eczema, atopic dermatitis is the most common type—and it’s what we focus on here at Eczema HQ. Many people think of it as simply a skin condition, but atopic dermatitis is actually a chronic (persistent, recurring, and long-lasting) inflammatory disease of the immune system. 

The exact cause of eczema is still unknown, but genetics and environmental factors are believed to impact your condition—as well as your immune system. Only your doctor can determine if you have eczema, what type it is, and what the appropriate treatment might be.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) may be characterized by:

  • Skin that is dry, red, or discolored
  • Intense itch and inflammation
  • Unpredictable flare-ups (when your symptoms worsen suddenly)

Researchers have long recognized that eczema may also have an impact on your life, maybe in ways you didn't even realize, like affecting a good night’s sleep for example. Your doctor will take all this into consideration when evaluating your eczema.

TIPS FROM HQ: As you’ve been reading about how eczema can affect your life, have you caught yourself thinking of the ways eczema impacts you personally? Take our short questionnaire to create a complete picture of your own eczema experience and get ready to share it with your doctor.

While we don’t currently have a cure for eczema, there are treatment options available to help manage the disease.

Eczema Eureka #023: Atopic dermatitis: The usual

Atopic dermatitis (AD). You may hear your doctor use this term interchangeably with “eczema,” since atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. “Atopic” means that there is typically a genetic tendency toward allergic disease, so while AD is a persistent and recurring form of eczema, it’s not caused by anything you did.

On a typical day, how much time do you spend managing your eczema?

On a typical day, how much time do you spend managing your eczema?

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Talking through your eczema experience with your doctor is a big deal. Not sure how to start the convo? Learn how to have better discussions with your doctor.

Pruritus—can you use it in a sentence?

You probably just know it simply as “itch”, but the medical term is actually “pruritus.” Pruritus is one of the most common symptoms associated with eczema, and—as you likely already know—it can be intense, unpleasant, and it can keep returning.

Scratching can worsen a continuous itch-scratch cycle of skin damage, inflammation, and worsening itch. This intense itch is experienced by many patients with eczema, and it’s associated with sleep disturbances as well as decreased quality of life.

Clearly there’s much more to the eczema itch story. So if you’re experiencing symptoms such as worsening itch or skin damage, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

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