Eczema occurs in people of all ages

A prevailing misconception is that eczema is just a childhood skin condition. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is common in children, but it also occurs in adults.

Atopic dermatitis is a disease of skin sensitivity, similar to asthma in the lungs, hay fever in the sinuses, and food allergies in the gut.

“It’s a multisystem disorder. The inflammation affects the skin, and the skin is more sensitive than usual,” said Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis.

It is a chronic disease that tends to worsen periodically. Symptoms vary.

Atopic dermatitis tends to be red, oozing, crusty, itchy, scaly patches, like oval or circular areas on the skin,” Davis said.

The darker your skin tone, the more inflammation can be disguised.

“Our skin is like a brick wall. And over time, as we age, or genetically if we’re predisposed to sensitive skin, it can look more like a wicker basket than a brick wall. And this makes it more vulnerable to inflammation and environmental stressors,” she said.

Eczema in adults often occurs in patches on areas of the body prone to rubbing or sweating.

“It could be where your belt would rest or where your socks or shoes would rub. If you have a watch, (it can happen) where you would wear your watch, or if you have a headband or certain things that you wear the down your neck, like a necklace or a tie,” she said.

The first basic element of eczema treatment is to take care of sensitive skin.

“It’s important to bathe regularly. It’s important to hydrate the skin with a hypoallergenic moisturizer. It’s important to watch for infections,” Davis said.

If these self-care steps don’t help, your dermatologist may prescribe topical or oral medications, or other therapies.

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