If you’re suffering from dry, red, itchy patches on your skin and simple moisturizers aren’t doing you any good, you may be suffering from a more serious condition such as eczema or rosacea. The symptoms of these conditions are very similar so before you can find a solution to your skin problems, it helps to know what you’re working with.
What is Eczema
According to the Mayo Clinic, eczema is, a chronic condition that causes red and itchy flare-ups on the skin. It is sometimes accompanied by asthma or hay fever. The most common locations for eczema are the folds of the elbows and knees, the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, and on eyelids. Infants may also have eczema on the scalp or face.
Symptoms of Eczema include:
- Itching- Sometimes severe and is often more severe in the evening causing loss of sleep.
- Rash- a pink, scaly, swollen rash is present in the affected areas. This rash often spreads/grows as eczema worsens and is not effervescent like hives.
- Bumps- Usually small and raised, these bumps may leak fluid and scab over if scratched. Little bumps around the hair follicles on the backs of the arms are an associated condition called keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris often flares when eczema flares.
- Scaly Skin- A dry, thickened, cracked appearance is common in affected areas.
- Swelling- Scratching the area can cause the area to become swollen and raw.
- Accentuated hair follicles- every hair follicle on the body will appear more prominent when eczema is flaring.
- Scabbing- Because eczema is associated with a susceptibility to infection with Staph. aureus, scabs and crusting are very common where scratching has occured.
It is thought that eczema is allergy-related, however, removing allergens will not clear the condition completely. Some common irritants for those that suffer from eczema include soaps and solvents, dusts, wool, tobacco smoke, sweat, and food sources such as eggs, peanuts, dairy products, soy, fish, and wheat. The most common contact allergens in people who have eczema include nickel, fragrances and essential oils, many preservatives, and the topical antibiotics bacitracin and neomycin.
What is Rosacea
The National Rosacea Society, describes this disorder as, a chronic and disruptive condition of the skin. The condition affects mostly fair-skinned people and can sometimes cause irritation of the eyes, neck, scalp, ears, or chest. It can be aggravated by alcohol consumption, stress, anxiety, embarrassment, sun exposure, exercise, and spicy foods although eliminating these substances will only help to alleviate the condition and not eliminate it entirely.
Symptoms of Rosacea include:
- Flushing- Blushing or flushing of the face is common in those that eventually develop rosacea, even if it subsides quickly.
- Persistent Redness- Different from flushing which is intermittent, those with rosacea may look chronically sunburned with mild swelling of the skin over the cheeks, nose, central chin and forehead.
- Bumps or pimples- Sometimes solid, or pus-filled blemishes develop and are similar to acne without oily skin, blackheads, or other acne symptoms.
- Blood Vessels- Enlarged, visible blood vessels under the skin along with these other symptoms are a classic signal.
- Prominent pores- In addition to the redness and swelling, the affected facial skin often has very prominent pore size.
Rosacea symptoms tend to flare up and then clear up and gradually worsen over time. The next flare up may affect more areas of the face or head and may not subside as completely or for as long as the previous one.
Which Do I Have?
Although the main symptom of each condition is mainly dry, red, itchy patches on the skin, there are a few important differences to note. First, rosacea generally presents sometime after age 30 while eczema usually presents in infancy and can persist into adulthood. Rosacea is most commonly found as red, patchy, sensitive skin on the face and other areas of the head while eczema can show up almost anywhere on the body. Rosacea is also primarily found on people with fair skin of English, Irish, or Scottish descent while eczema can affect virtually anyone.
Eczema: The treatment of eczema focuses on restoring the healthy skin barrier by using products that prevent water loss from the skin and that replace skin barrier lipids that have been shown to be deficient in eczema-prone skin. An emphasis on the pH of the skin and balancing the skin microbiome is also important; discourage the growth of bad bacteria like Staph. aureus while making a skin environment that encourages the growth of friendly bacteria. Inflammation must also be addressed while avoiding all of the common allergens that often trigger eczema.
Look for products that replace skin lipids and specifically address inflammation. Rosacea is an abnormal inflammatory response to the bacteria that live ON the mites that live IN your skin. These mites, called demodex, proliferate when skin barrier lipids are deficient and can have easier access to the dead skin in our hair follicles. When the mites flourish, the bacteria inside of them flourish and some humans develop antibodies against these bacteria. It is imperative that you use moisturizers and creams that are made for sensitive skin and that are hypoallergenic. In cases of acne rosacea, be sure to ask your doctor for treatment options as there are many available. I’ve seen great results by compounding medications such as metronidazole, azelaic acid, tretinoin or ivermectin into skin lipid replacement moisturizers.
+Dr.Cheryl Lee Eberting has developed TrueLipids, a 100% organic and hypoallergenic skin care product line that treats eczema, cracked heels, psoriasis outbreaks and other skin conditions. You can read more at cherylleemd.com