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Healthy Cells is a local health magazine with most of the articles written by local professionals. People love to read about healthcare from their local health professionals. Each month includes a wide variety of articles on various topics.
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What Is Eczema?

Eczema, which is also called atopic dermatitis, is a common condition that causes dry, itchy, inflamed patches of skin. It is most common in babies and children, but it can last into adulthood or start for the first time later in life. It most commonly appears on the face, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the hands and feet. The itching can be intense, which often sets up an “itch-scratch-rash” cycle that makes the condition worse.



    We often think of our skin as a barrier — it keeps the insides of our bodies in, and it keeps the outside world out. When this water-tight barrier between skin cells gets weak, then it lets moisture out and lets other things in. The skin is also filled with special cells of the immune system. These cells protect the skin and body against viruses, bacteria, and other threats. Whenever these cells detect a suspicious substance, they begin a chain reaction in the skin. People with eczema often have an over-active immune system, so the immune cells attack the body instead of protecting it, leading to inflammation and itchy, painful skin.
    So what causes eczema? Why are some people susceptible and others aren’t? We don’t really know, but it is likely caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Sometimes the skin’s immune cells react to something that directly touches the skin. Other times, the immune system flares in the skin because of a whole-body infection or illness.
    There are many things you can do to manage and control eczema. One of the most important things is to have a pro active skin care routine that keeps the skin moisturized. It’s best to consult a dermatologist for advice, as many drugstore moisturizing products may make the condition worse. Next is to figure out what might trigger an eczema flare-up. Triggers often include common, everyday things including the following:

• Chemicals in household products, such as laundry detergent, shampoo, body wash, cleaning products etc.
• Metals, especially nickel that is often found in jewelry
• Cigarette smoke
• Fragrances
• Certain fabrics such as wool and polyester
• Stress
• Air that is too dry or too humid
• Sweating
• Infections such as athletes foot or a cold sore
• Allergens like pollen, pet dander, and mold
• Hormonal changes, particularly in women.

    Eczema may get better or worse over time, but it is often a long-lasting condition that is more serious than “just a rash.” The itching can lead to sleep problems, make daily activities difficult, and cause anxiety or embarrassment if the rash is visible, as others may think it is contagious (it’s not) or associated with poor hygiene.
    
    Thankfully, there are many effective treatments available. In addition to good skin care, treatments may include medicines, skin creams, light therapy, topical steroids, phototherapy, and injectable drugs.
    If you have any significant rash that doesn’t resolve on its own within a few weeks, you should see a dermatologist. They can figure out the type of rash you have and what is likely causing it so that you get the correct treatment. Your skin is your protection. It’s not just the covering that keeps your body in; it’s also your first line of defense against germs and chemicals. Take care of your skin so your skin can take care of you.
    
    For more information or to schedule an appointment, you may contact the Dermatology and Mohs Surgery Institute at 309-451-DERM (3376) or dermatologistbloomington.com. Dr. Leone and Dr. Schupbach, both residents of Bloomington, are board-certified dermatologists, specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology, including the treatment of skin cancer, moles, acne, rashes, warts, and all skin disorders. Dr. Leone is one of the few Mohs-trained surgeons in the area. Their practice, is located at 3024 E. Empire St. 2nd floor (in the Advocate BroMenn outpatient center).

 

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