Most people might think that eczema just involves skin rash that causes discomfort. However, it does more than affect just the skin. It can have a detrimental effect on a person’s overall well-being. Eczema is a term that collectively describes a group of related skin conditions that cause dry, red patches on the skin that are intensely itchy. The condition can turn into scaly-like, blistered, thickened, or crusted skin. If you or someone you know suffers from eczema, it’s crucial to understand the condition and how you can manage it.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema usually starts in childhood, but some experience its onset in adolescence and adulthood. One of the most common symptoms of eczema is extreme itchiness that more or less keeps a person awake at night. In the worst-case scenario, eczema can interrupt a person’s normal life and take a toll on the person’s emotions.
Eczema can limit your dress code, and the use of makeup and other cosmetics. Typically, the condition is characterized by a rash on the face that can cause embarrassment and low self-esteem. A survey by the National Eczema Association concluded that more than 30 percent of atopic dermatitis patients have been diagnosed with depression/anxiety.
There are several ways that eczema can cause depression/anxiety. The itchiness and pain associated with the rash are a source of constant discomfort. The person may face bullying or be frequently worried about being bullied. These fears can lead them to isolate themselves. Lack of sleep for nights on end can also affect a person’s mood.
Moreover, the continuous stress of living with eczema can lead to the increase of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes inflammation, and in turn triggering more flare-ups.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema that affects nearly 28 million adults and children in the US alone. This condition is mainly caused when your immune system malfunctions, combined with the inability of your skin to maintain moisture. The red, itchy rash can appear anywhere on the body, but most often on the face, elbows, hands, and knees. If you’re dark-skinned, eczema may affect your skin’s pigmentation, turning the skin to a lighter or darker shade. Various factors can trigger the flare-up of atopic dermatitis, including contact with chemicals, e.g. those in shampoos, perfumes, soaps, and detergents. Food allergies (such as allergies to peanuts or milk), weather, and stress can also worsen the condition.
How Eczema Impacts Emotional Well-Being
Eczema has a negative emotional impact on almost all aspects of a person’s life, whether a child or an adult. People suffering from eczema report that whether a small or large outbreak, it can result in extreme discomfort and can be painful. Those with moderate to severe eczema report that it disrupts their daily activities and impacts their social lives and performance levels.
In the Workplace
In the workplace, eczema may affect a person’s ability to perform their jobs well. Likewise, due to lack of sufficient sleep, an individual’s level of concentration and focus drops, and this affects their productivity levels. Furthermore, due to the nature of the condition, a person may avoid pursuing certain career paths like beauty, healthcare, and hairdressing, even if it was their dream job.
Eczema tends to make the affected person less social and shy in a social environment. Their self-image suffers and they stay away from social events. Eczema may also affect a person’s ability to have an intimate relationship.
Everything you do from eating to drinking to the clothes you wear is affected. People with eczema avoid eye contact for fear of being asked ambiguous questions like “Is it contagious?” Discrimination is also a big issue since everywhere you go people stare and react with fear. Overall, it’s not easy to cope with eczema and it can even be emotionally draining.
How to Manage Eczema
The major roadblock that people with eczema face is stigmatization. Due to a lack of understanding of the condition, people have concocted their own meaning of what eczema is and what it can do. With awareness, the condition can easily be managed and people will learn to live with eczema patients normally. Below are some effective ways to manage eczema:
- Reduce stress – stress is said to exacerbate eczema. When your body is stressed, it triggers the release of too much cortisol, the stress hormone, which can result in a weak immune system and inflammation. This worsens the situation. Therefore, when suffering from eczema, it’s important to find ways to reduce stress. Some useful ways include exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques (e.g., mindfulness, meditation), practicing yoga, and seeking professional help.
- Prioritize sleep – itching may become more severe at night since there’s nothing to distract a person. To help avoid this, take a warm bath or shower and apply hypoallergenic moisturizers immediately after showering. Additionally, take anti-itching medication like diphenhydramine to help soothe the itching. If you have topical or other anti-inflammatory medications, take them as prescribed by the doctor. Avoid products that may agitate the skin, like deodorants.
- Find and join support groups where you can share your frustrations and get tips for coping with the condition.
Eczema can be managed. Don’t suffer alone. Find a professional to talk to and avoid stressful situations. When you visit your doctor, be sure to speak about your physical as well as mental wellbeing. There are methods and treatment options to help you cope with eczema. Don’t be ashamed. Speak out and seek help.
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