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. Think of your skin as a brick wall defending your body from foreign invaders like bacteria, allergens, and irritants. 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.
1. There are dry patches on your skin and they're very itchy.
Eczema can be very itchy. If you have a dry patch that seems particularly itchy, it can be a sign of eczema. Even though it itches a lot, 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.
2. Your skin is red and inflamed.
If your skin reddens, it could also mean you are suffering from eczema. The change in color means that your skin isn't happy. If the skin is pink or red, it means there's inflammation, which can be a sign of eczema.
3. You're having trouble sleeping because of how irritated your skin feels.
The irritation from eczema can make it difficult to sleep. 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. 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. The best way to cope with this is to take warm (but not hot) showers and apply a heavy moisturizer immediately after showering.
4. 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. There is a lot of overlap between dry skin and eczema, 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.
5. Patches of dry skin are popping up in specific spots on your body.
Having itchy patches of skin is one of many symptoms of eczema. Another way to find out if your dry skin is actually eczema is to look at where it's cropping up on your body. 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. Therefore, 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.
6. 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.
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