Busted!: 7 Lesser Known Myths & Facts About Eczema

Mythbusters Diaries (Part 42): 7 Lesser Known Myths & Facts About Eczema

Young woman scratching the itch on her hands w/ redness rash. Cause is eczema
Contributed by: Rachana Arya

 

If you have eczema, you’re no doubt familiar with the annoying — and the sometimes painful — ordeal of managing symptoms.

 

What is Eczema?

Eczema is an inflammatory long-term skin condition characterized by dry, itchy, inflamed, and scaly rashes that typically become thick and leathery with constant scratching. These red and itchy rashes appear on the skin folds of the back of the knees, neck, crease of the elbow, and eyelids. 

While it is commonly known as “asthma of the skin,” the more medically accurate name for it is “atopic dermatitis.” Although the ailment is relatively common — with at least one in five children suffering from the condition — unfortunately, to this day, the average person’s knowledge of it comprises mostly of myths and old wives tales. 

There are still plenty of unknowns and half-truths surrounding eczema – this not only applies to the public but also to those suffering from the condition themselves. Treating eczema and preventing additional flare-ups can be overwhelming and confusing. So let’s go ahead and crack down on some of these misconceptions associated with it. 

 

Myth #1: Eczema is contagious

Fact:

Plain and simple — it’s not! You cannot ‘catch’ eczema by touching someone else’s rash. That’s because while the skin may appear red and flaky, this is actually a sign of inflammation, not a contagious infection. So, if you’re struggling with eczema, you can put your mind at ease. There’s no way you can pass the condition on to someone else by rubbing against them and vice versa.  That said, it is important to note that if you have open sores or blisters that get infected, then there is a probability that you could spread that infection to other people. So you should take precautions during flare-ups.

 

Myth #2: Eczema is caused due to poor hygiene

Fact:

Point-blank, that’s simply not true. While the true cause of eczema is unknown, it is certainly too broad to think of poor hygiene as a cause or trigger of eczema. Most experts believe that it’s caused by a combination of genetic, dietary, environmental, and infectious factors that may act to trigger relapses and exacerbations (flare-ups).

 

Myth #3: Eczema is caused by stress

Fact:

There’s a slight distinction here: Stress doesn’t cause eczema, but it can certainly exacerbate the condition and trigger flare-ups. That’s due to the release of stress hormones, cortisol, which damages the skin’s ability to retain water, leading to increased dryness and inflammation. Stress can also make your skin itchier due to which you are more likely to scratch, which, of course, will make eczema worse.

 

Myth #4: People with eczema cannot go swimming

Fact:

This is absolutely not the case, however, some choose not to. That’s because the chlorine in swimming pools or the salt in seawater makes their eczema worse. Back to Myth #1, eczema is not communicable, so there’s no need to be concerned about infecting others. Although, if you have any open wounds, proceed with caution.

 

Myth #5: Eczema is just an occasional itch

Fact:

It’s not just the occasional itch. Though while seemingly harmless compared to other medical conditions, many people don’t realize that eczema is more than itchy skin. Eczema is much more than what it actually seems. It is a significant medical issue that can affect the overall health and quality of life of affected individuals and their families. Besides causing irritated, itchy parts of the skin, the condition has a profound psychosocial impact and can affect self-esteem, relationships, and more. Research has shown that those with eczema have an increased risk of developing a number of health issues, including food allergies, insomnia, asthma, obesity along with mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression.

 

Myth #6: A bad diet causes eczema

Fact:

Unfortunately, this myth is also not true. There’s a distinct lack of medical literature that proves that your diet can directly cause eczema. However, if there are particular foods that make your flare-ups worse, you should try avoiding those foods and switch to an eczema-friendly diet.

 

Myth #7: Eczema can be cured

Fact:

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for eczema, but using a gentle body wash in the shower, followed by a moisturizing cream — especially in the winter months and anti-inflammatory medications can reduce inflammation and itchiness. Remember, no medication can cure eczema, although by ongoing maintenance like using non-irritating soaps and avoiding perfumed products you can manage and minimize symptoms of eczema.

 

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