Affecting 6 million people across the UK, eczema is one of the most common health conditions that Britons suffer through. As we prepare for National Eczema Week, which takes place between 16 and 24 September, Pharmacy Outlet is on hand to tell you all that you need to know about this ailment and how best to combat it.
What is eczema?
Also known dermatitis, eczema is a skin condition that results in people having red, scaly and sore skin. Areas of the body affected by eczema will usually be dry and itchy – however, itching the skin will typically worsen the issue, triggering a vicious cycle for the sufferer.
One in every five children and almost a tenth of adults in the UK suffer from the condition. It is not contagious and the severity of the ailment – from the size of the area of skin affected to the dryness, soreness and itchiness it causes – will vary from person to person.
There are many different types of eczema, and more information on them can be found here.
How do people get eczema?
Eczema is not contagious; it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Like most atopic conditions, eczema will often develop in people whose parents suffer from the condition. However, it can also affect individuals who have no hereditary connection to the problem but whose skin is easily irritated by one of a number of external factors.
It occurs when the body does not provide the skin with the usual levels of moisture and protection – in turn, the skin can dry out and become exposed to irritants, which cause it to flare up and become sore or itchy.
What makes people’s eczema worse?
There are many factors that can flare up people’s eczema. Some of the most common include:
- Temperatures – exposure to very warm, cold or sudden changes in temperatures can result in skin irritation
- Soaps and waters – many standard soaps or normal water can aggravate the problem
- Sweat and exercise – sweat can irritate and dry out the skin, while chaffing and rubbing during sports can trigger more severe eczema symptoms
- Fragrances, moisturisers and make-up – some cosmetic products will contain chemicals or liquids that intensify people’s eczema woes
- Clothes – certain materials that come into close, regular contact with the skin can cause itchiness
There are other factors – such as animals, dust and even food – that can trigger or even worsen people’s eczema problems. Understanding what factors may impact your own skin irritation is vital in ensuring you manage your eczema effectively.
How do you treat it?
There are many different treatments available for people who suffer from eczema, but their effectiveness and suitability will vary depending on the type of eczema an individual suffers from.
One of the most common treatments are emollients – special medical moisturisers, unlike your standard cosmetic ranges, that are either prescribed or bought over the counter at a pharmacist. Emollients work by trapping water into the skin and also creating a protective surface to protect the skin from irritants. They come in oils, creams and lotions, so you should speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice on which option is right for you.
Other popular treatments include corticosteroid creams, solutions, foams, and ointments, which all contain steroids that help to relieve itchiness and reduce inflammation. However, use of steroid-based products comes with a serious health warning; while they can offer a fast and powerful solution, excessive or incorrect use can make matter much worse. Some people who have used steroid creams, for example, have seen them dramatically exacerbate their skin problems, while others experience far greater issues when they begin to withdraw from using topical steroids.
You can also use antibiotics to combat skin infections and irritations, but again this should only be done with appropriate medical advice. To find out more information about the range of options available, visit The National Eczema Society’s website or speak to a pharmacist, GP or doctor.
Using EPS to Combat Eczema
For people requiring regular, prescribed eczema medication, you can now receive this directly to your door through the NHS’ Electronic Prescription Service (EPS). To find out more about the EPS or to register for home-delivered prescriptions today, click here.