Rubbing cream onto eczema sufferer's hand

Learn about eczema

What is eczema?

At Bepanthen, we’re deeply committed to family health, and we understand that it can be distressing to see a family member struggling with a skin complaint. That’s why we’ve put many years of research into minimising the physical and mental discomfort of the most common dermatological condition of our time – eczema.

Baby with eczema on its ankle

Eczema is characterised by inflammation, dryness, itching or redness on the surface of the skin. The more you scratch the affected area, the more likely it is that viruses, bacteria and pollutants can get underneath the skin, and the itchier it will become. This is the itch-scratch vicious cycle which frustrates so many sufferers – despite knowing that scratching will make the eczema worse, it’s incredibly hard to resist doing it, even for adults. This inability to resist can cause feelings of guilt and embarrassment.

Eczema can affect people of all ages. It can be irritating and even painful as the skin blisters and cracks, stopping people from doing the things they love. Some people also feel self-conscious about the appearance of eczema and find socialising more difficult as a result.

Most people who suffer from eczema are looking for treatments which not only provide itch relief and prevent flare-ups, but leave them feeling happy in their own skin. Finding the right treatment is often a painful journey of trial and error, as many products can actually make the eczema much worse. The aim of Bepanthen’s eczema range is to alleviate the pain and distress of this journey by offering sufferers real, lasting relief.

What causes eczema?

Man scratching his elbow

The exact causes of eczema are unknown, but some factors include:

  • Genetics – 50%-70% of people with eczema also have an affected parent
  • Perfumes
  • Friction with synthetic fabrics and wool
  • Allergens such as pollens, animal dander, dust mites, dust and mould
  • Stress
  • Excessive sweat
  • Soap
  • Fabric softener
  • Central heating
  • Air conditioning
  • Diabetes (eczema can be a symptom)

Taking care of your skin

Person applies cream to eczema on their hands

To minimise the risk and symptoms of eczema, and break the vicious itch-scratch cycle, there are certain simple measures you can take:

  • Keep the skin moisturised, especially after showering, and in dry weather
  • Avoid baths any hotter than 36°C and don’t bathe for any longer than 10 minutes
  • Use mild soaps
  • Use cotton or linen as opposed to synthetic fabrics
  • Regularly air the rooms in your house by opening the windows
  • Use fragrance-free products on your skin whenever possible

Symptoms

Symptoms in babies

Babies’ skin is more sensitive to environmental influences than that of adults. Eczema can start in the first weeks of life, showing as dryness or even lesions on the forehead, cheeks, chin or thighs. The itchiness may also stop your baby from sleeping.

Symptoms in children

In children over two years old, eczema shows as dryness, redness and flaking, most commonly in areas of the skin which fold, such as the elbows, behind the knees and ears, wrists, ankles and hands.

Symptoms in adults

In adults the appearance of the condition is much the same, but it tends to affect different areas, such as the neck, head, shoulders and chest.

Elderly

As the skin ages, it becomes thinner and more sensitive. In the elderly, symptoms are much the same as they are in a younger adult, but can be worse, due to the lack of fat content and moisture in the skin.

Treatment

Eczema can be difficult to treat, and may require different treatments over time. Treatments fall into many categories, including:

  • Emollients or creams to keep your skin moisturised
  • Creams or oral treatments to control itching and inflammation (for example a topical corticosteroid)
  • Creams to help repair damaged skin barrier
  • Antibiotics or other treatments to fight infection if you have open sores or cracked skin

Additional non-medicinal treatments can include reducing stress (which can trigger eczema flare-ups), and bandaging or wet-wrapping affected areas.

Prevention

Whilst genetics play a large role in eczema (50%-70% of eczema sufferers also have a parent who is affected by eczema), there are still many steps you can take to help prevent flare-ups.

  • Keep the skin moisturised, especially after showering and in dry weather
  • Avoid baths any hotter than 36°C and don’t bathe for any longer than 10 minutes
  • Use mild soaps, both when washing your body and your clothes
  • Use cotton or linen as opposed to synthetic fabrics
  • Regularly air the rooms in your house by opening the windows
  • Use fragrance-free products on your skin whenever possible
  • Try not to scratch, as this worsens the vicious itch-scratch cycle