Can You Develop Eczema As An Adult?


With an unusually high number of skin irritants during the summer months—thanks a lot, mosquitoes and poison ivy—it can feel like your skin is constantly fighting off itchiness galore. And while you might assume those annoying, red bumps are just temporary, there’s a chance they could actually be something more. But how can you really tell?

After all, skin irritation can be a symptom of just about anything—just like fatigue, headaches and weight loss. So, if those mysterious bumps aren’t bug bites, what are they? As it turns out, they may actually be eczema. Now, we know what you’re thinking, isn’t eczema something you’re born with? Yes—and no. As it turns out, you can develop certain types of eczema (yes, there’s more than one kind) as an adult (but not because it’s contagious).

Here’s a quick look at 2 most common types of eczema—and more importantly, what causes them.

Atopic Dermatitis: When you think of eczema, this is likely the type that you are imagining. Not only is atopic dermatitis the most common type (with 18 million cases), it’s also one of the most uncomfortable. Symptoms can range from dry, itchy skin all over to raised, scaly patches on the cheeks, arms and legs—even behind your knee or on your scalp (which sounds a lot like psoriasis, right?) It’s important to note that atopic dermatitis is primarily genetic and usually appears early on in childhood, so you would likely know it if you had it.

Causes: While this type of eczema doesn’t have a specific cause per se, there are certain triggers that may lead to a flare-up. For instance, nickel (often in jewelry), scented soaps, fragrances, wool, stress and allergens (like pollen), can all spell trouble.

Contact Dermatitis: If you’ve ever suffered from itchy, inflamed skin (hasn’t everyone?), then chances are you’ve had contact dermatitis. Whether it’s the result of poison ivy, makeup or other common, external irritants, contact dermatitis is simply your skin’s inflammatory response to any type of allergen or irritant.  As an adult, you may experience this type of eczema for the first time; however, the good news is, those itchy, red bumps are only temporary. To avoid future flare-ups, steer clear of your triggers, which may be easier said than done.

Causes: Some of the most common triggers (especially in adults), are seasonal allergies, scented soaps and/or detergents, a food allergy and/or intolerance, stress, dry skin or an undiagnosed health condition, like cellulitis.

Is there any way to get rid of eczema?

The frustrating truth about eczema is that it can be debilitating, both mentally and physically. For those that haven’t experienced eczema, they may see it as nothing more than an annoying skin condition. But beyond the dry, patches of skin that are intensely itchy, it can also be mentally draining (after all, it isn’t exactly a confidence booster).

The good news is there are treatment options. In addition to avoiding your personal triggers and resisting the urge to itch, your primary care provider can work with you to determine the best treatment option. Whether it’s using topical steroids, medicated moisturizers and systemic medications or anti-inflammatory topical medications, you can find the best fit for you. With knowledgeable experts, an extensive range of services and helpful resources, you can count on Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care for all of your unique health needs.

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