Your skin is your largest organ, and in many ways your most vulnerable. Exposed to the weather, as well as bumps, bruises, cuts, it’s no wonder that there are so many ways in which it can go wrong.
But it’s important to remember that there’s no need to suffer in silence if you or someone you know is suffering from a skin condition. There are countless options available to you.
In this page, we’re going to look at two of the most common skin conditions, and consider some of the measures you can take to prevent or address them.
Eczema is a fairly broad term used to refer to various issues with the top skin layer. They include discoloration (usually red) and the appearance of crust, scales, thickened areas, ooze or blisters, and can manifest separately or in combination.
If you suffer from eczema, you’ll know the horrible feeling of dry, itchy skin, and unfortunately it can occur almost anywhere on the body. While it very often develops on hands, faces, legs, or arms (particularly the elbows), it can also appear on scalps, nipples, or even eyelids.
What you may not know is that dermatitis and eczema mean the same thing, and the most common kind is atopic eczema/dermatitis. It’s the result of an allergic reaction, typically to pollen, dander (usually animal fur), dust mites, or foods/drinks, but sometimes to other irritants.
Eczema that results from physically touching an irritant is known as contact eczema, and usually shows up a few hours or days after exposure.
It’s not always that easy to get rid of eczema completely, but you can certainly treat it and control it.
One of the best ways to manage eczema is to avoid whatever allergen or irritant is causing it, but you may not know what exactly is responsible, or may simply not be in a position to avoid it entirely.
If you cannot solve your eczema problem that way, you will likely need to consult a doctor so that they can prescribe you an appropriate course of treatment.
For most people, ensuring that you follow a strict routine of moisturising your skin with a proper emollient between two and four times daily will help to limit eczema flare-ups.
Eczema is more common in children and those who suffer with other conditions, such as allergies or asthma. Some people will grow out of eczema as they get older, or find that it reduces in severity.
The most basic treatment will consistent of emollients, which are moisturising creams you can apply to your skin in order to prevent dryness. This will limit further damage and hasten the healing process.
If stronger measures are required, you will be issued corticosteroids. Not to be confused with anabolic steroids (the ones used for building muscle), corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medicines.
If your case is particularly severe, you will need to see a dermatologist who may prescribe oral corticosteroids (which are tablets) to get your condition back under control.
For most eczema sufferers, occasional flare-ups can be self-treated on repeat prescription, over-the-counter, or from an online pharmacy.
The best way to deal with eczema is to minimise the amount of flare-ups you get, but that can’t always be achieved. If you’re a frequent sufferer, though, you should take the following steps:
By MediaJet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes the production of dry, crusty, and flaky patches of skin covered in white or silvery scales. Much like eczema, it can appear almost anywhere on the body, but it most commonly affects the lower back, scalp, elbows and/or knees.
The reason the patches form is that skin cells are being produced far more rapidly than is necessary, leading to new skin layers piling up.
Unlike eczema, psoriasis doesn’t usually result from a reaction to something external. It is believed that the ultimate cause of the skin cells being produced so quickly is the immune system attacking and damaging healthy skin cells.
Relatives of those with psoriasis are more likely to suffer from it, and it affects around 2% of people in the UK. While they don’t give rise to the general condition itself, certain triggers can cause it to flare up, such as the following:
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for psoriasis, though its severity does vary wildly, and sufferers might not experience serious flare-ups very regularly at all.
Due to the fundamental similarities between the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema/dermatitis, many of the general management tips are the same, with moisturisers and corticosteroids being effective tools.
Since there’s no way of fully eradicating psoriasis, though, living with psoriasis is generally about managing the regular symptoms and taking steps to avoid things that might cause them to worsen.
If you’re having difficulty dealing with a skin condition, whether it’s eczema/dermatitis, psoriasis, or something else entirely, you’re not alone, and there are always more things that can be done to help you get by.
Speak to a doctor and have them review your case. They will be able to give you some pointers on how to cure your skin problem (if possible) or simply get it under control so you can live your life with minimal discomfort.
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