by Stacy D. Tompkins, M.D., North Coast Dermatology
Promising new research that targets the root cause of eczema and its potential treatment is welcome news to those who suffer from the condition. As researchers try to pinpoint the markers responsible for the skin disorder, eczema patients can in the meantime take steps to prepare their skin for the harsh winter months ahead. October is
Eczema Awareness Month
and with winter right around the corner, people who suffer from the condition are more likely to experience stronger flare ups. However, there are simple ways that eczema patients can prepare and treat their skin for the cold winter months.
Continued Research Brings New Hope
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a skin disorder related to a compromised, highly sensitive immune system. Although the disorder appears as patches of inflamed skin that can be very itchy and crusty, eczema can occur anywhere on the body. Areas where flare ups occur more frequently include the hands and feet, behind the knees and on the ankles, wrist, face, neck and upper chest – even around the eyes and eyelids.
Although the root cause of eczema is still being investigated, researchers are getting closer to providing more effective treatments based on recent findings. Eczema patients suffer from an intense itching sensation caused by their T cells, resulting in an allergic response. According to the
, researchers found that both T-cells and another kind of immune cell, neutrophils, also cause the itchy sensation. As neutrophils release chemicals such as leukotriene B4 during this response, it causes a chain reaction – causing even more neutrophils to be released. Researchers found that when they blocked leukotriene B4, it prevented T cells from causing the inflammation linked to eczema. With continued research ahead to determine the best treatment options, what can eczema sufferers do in the meantime to beat winter skin?
Summer Behind, Winter Ahead
Eczema sufferers can expect the harsh winter elements to greatly affect their skin – the brisk cold air, low humidity and dry winds all play a part in exacerbating eczema-prone skin. The key is keeping the skin moisturized using an oil based moisturizer and using it frequently throughout the day, according to the
National Eczema Association
- In order for skin to stay healthy and pliable, it has to contain and absorb essential oils. If not, an eczema patient is more prone to infection and flare ups. Hands, elbows, legs and feet are most susceptible to dryness and need extra attention and moisture during winter.
Five Tips to Managing Eczema During Winter
So what can eczema sufferers do to manage flare ups in winter? By taking simple precautions on a daily basis, patients can not only manage their condition but also prevent flare ups – consistency is key!
- Reduce shower time and water temperature. Prolonged exposure to water will strip the skin of its natural oils increasing dryness. Hot water will irritate the skin increasing itchiness. Short showers in warm water are best.
- Moisturize immediately after showering. An oil based moisturizer applied to the skin while still damp can prove effective in keeping it pliable, soft and less prone to infection. Hands are the most susceptible to Eczema flare ups and should be regularly moisturized throughout the day.
- Use sun block. Even in winter, the sun is still harsh and damaging – good reason to continue use of sun block with an SPF of 30 or more. Additionally, harsh winds are particularly drying to lips, which can quickly become chapped as they lose moisture throughout the day. Use a 30+ SPF lip balm regularly in addition to regular sun block.
- Use a humidifier. As heaters are turned up and windows stay closed in winter, indoor air can become extremely dry. Eczema patients should consider using one or more humidifiers throughout the home to keep the air moist, thereby reducing the symptoms of eczema.
- Drink water . Hydration is absolutely essential to maintaining skin’s moisture throughout the winter months. Drink the recommended 6-8 glasses of water per day, but don’t forget about eating fruits high in water content as well. Remember, hydration on the inside is essential to hydration on the outside – it’s as simple as that!
If you suffer from eczema, it’s never been more important to speak to a dermatologist in La Jolla today. As a dermatologist committed to treating eczema, I can help relieve the irritating and painful symptoms associated with this disease. As winter quickly approaches, now is the best time to prepare your skin for the dry, cold months ahead with our expertise and available treatment options. For more information on treating your eczema, call our North Coast Dermatology at (858) 454-4300 or visit us at http://www.ncdermatology.com