- In some cases, your dry and irritated skin could be a case of eczema.
- Eczema is a treatable skin condition typically caused by a damaged skin barrier.
- If you’re experiencing symptoms like itching, redness, and flaking skin, you might be suffering from eczema.
With lower temperatures, decreased humidity, and freezing winds, winter weather can seriously dry out your skin. But if your skin barrier is damaged, your dry skin may feel (and look) a little different than usual. If that’s the case, you might have eczema, a treatable skin condition also known as atopic dermatitis.
It’s essentially just a skin barrier issue, said Matthew Elias, a dermatologist in Florida. “Think of your skin as a brick wall defending your body from foreign invaders like bacteria, allergens, and irritants,” he told INSIDER. “With eczema, the grout between your bricks is falling apart, usually due to a gene defect. With those gaps in the wall (your skin barrier), all the foreign invaders and environmental contaminants can now easily pass through your first wall of defense and affect you and your skin.”
The best way to determine if you have eczema is to visit a medical professional, but here are some common symptoms of eczema that are worth noting.
There are dry patches on your skin and they’re very itchy
Eczema can be very itchy said Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist in New York. “If you have a dry patch that seems particularly itchy, it can be a sign of eczema,” she told INSIDER.
Even though it itches a lot, Garshick said that scratching it might only make it worse. “When the skin barrier is compromised as it is in eczema, it can increase the chance of infection,” she added.
Your skin is red and inflamed
If your skin reddens, it could also mean you are suffering from eczema, said Garshick. The change in color means that your skin isn’t happy, she said. “If the skin is pink or red, it means there’s inflammation, which can be a sign of eczema.”
You’re having trouble sleeping because of how irritated your skin feels
Dry skin can be annoying, that’s for sure. But if your skin is so itchy or so painfully dry that you can’t sleep, you’re likely dealing with eczema.
You should also treat your skin immediately, said George Skandamis, a dermatologist in Ohio. “Without treatment, the skin can remain itchy, which affects a person’s ability to concentrate on their work and can impair a person’s ability to get a full night of needed restful sleep,” he told INSIDER.
Virginia-based dermatologist Brenda Dintiman added that this side effect can also worsen the state of your mental health — even contributing to depression. Her advice for coping is to take warm (but not hot) showers and apply a heavy moisturizer immediately after showering. You may also want to seek treatment if the condition is making your day-to-day functions difficult.
Patches of your skin is flaky and scaly
Noticing that your skin is flaking? That’s probably a sign you’re dealing with more than just dry skin, said New York-based dermatologist Jennifer Kitchin. “There is a lot of overlap between dry skin and eczema,” she said. “But one of the major differences, clinically, is that dry skin is dry, and eczema is a red, flaking, itchy rash.” If you find that your skin is scaly and flaking off, you may be dealing with atopic dermatitis.
Patches of dry skin are popping up in specific spots on your body
Another way to find out if your dry skin is actually eczema is to look at where it’s cropping up on your body, said Caren Campbell, a dermatologist based in California. She said eczema most commonly presents itself in areas in front of the elbows and behind the knees in adults. For babies, eczema is commonly found on the cheeks, she said. So if your skin is red and itchy in those spots, there’s a chance it could be eczema. That being said, it can appear in different places for each individual.
You notice parts of your skin flare up after coming into contact with certain irritants, like fabrics or fragrances
Eczema makes your skin especially sensitive to irritants. If you notice that your skin feels worse after coming into contact with certain things, it may be eczema, said Ellen Dabela, a New Jersey-based dermatologist. “If you find that you break out into itchy spots at random or that your skin is extra sensitive to fabrics, fragrances, or other irritants, it’s likely eczema is the culprit,” she told INSIDER.
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