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Is your dry skin actually a symptom eczema?

Do you have tight, uncomfortable skin that looks dull and feels rough? If so, you’re not alone. Dry skin on the body is a completely normal and unavoidable part of life that all of us will experience from time to time, particularly during winter with our central heated homes. But, for around 15 million of us,[1] dry skin is not just dry skin, it’s actually eczema. Eczema – also commonly known as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis – is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, irritated skin that can be itchy, red, cracked and sore.[2]

Symptoms of eczema

Eczema symptoms can be mild or very severe and vary from person to person and throughout a person’s life. For example, some people will only have small patches of skin affected, while others may have large areas of the body covered in painful skin that constantly itches. People who live with eczema can have times when the condition seems barely noticeable and times when symptoms severely impact quality of life.[2]

The following are common symptoms:[2], [3]

  • Dry itchy skin
  • A rash that can appear red on pale skin or darker brown, purple or grey on dark skin
  • Intense itching
  • Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Thickened skin
  • Swelling
  • Skin soreness and pain
  • Cracked skin that can be oozing or crusty
  • Skin sensitivity to the environment, such as soaps, detergents and lotions, certain types of clothing, the weather, pollen and other allergens
  • Skin that can be raw and bleeding due to scratching

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have an infection and should speak to a doctor as soon as possible:[2]

  • High temperature / fever
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Oozing skin
  • Yellow crust
  • Pus-filled blisters

While eczema can affect any part of the body, symptoms most commonly appear on the hands and in the folds of the skin such as the inside of the elbows, back of the knees and under the arms. In children it often appears on the face and scalp.

Because of the discomfort and pain of eczema, and its visibility on the body, it can also affect mental health, including: [2],[4],[5]

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Loss of productivity
  • Missed days at work
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

When you speak to your doctor, it’s very important to mention how eczema is affecting your quality of life, as well as how it is affecting you physically. This will help them create the best treatment plan for you.

Getting diagnosed

Eczema should always be diagnosed by a doctor as they will want to rule other dry skin conditions or causes such as a food allergy. They will usually be able to diagnose you by looking at the affected areas of skin and asking a few questions. Eczema is more likely in those with a family history of asthma or hay fever, so they will ask you about your family health as part of the appointment.

If your doctor diagnoses eczema, don’t worry – while there is no cure, there are plenty of things you can do for the treatment of eczema, to help reduce the itching and soothe the skin. Many treatments, including Cetraben are available over the counter at the pharmacist or in Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy and Tesco stores nationwide.

Find out more about treating eczema and triggers to watch out for, here.

  1. https://www.allergyuk.org/about/latest-news/310-eczema-are-we-just-scratching-the-surface
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/
  3. https://www.allergyuk.org/information-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/35-eczema-dermatitis
  4. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema-emotional-wellness/
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962217305066
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