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In some cases, eczema can cause health complications beyond unpleasant skin symptoms. A skin infection brought on by constant scratching is the most common medical complication caused by eczema. By knowing about the possible problems in advance, you can take steps to reduce the chances of them. Your doctor can also provide advice as to preventing and treating these complications.
People who suffer from eczema are more prone to skin infections, including impetigo. The most common causes of skin infections are staphylococcal (staph) infection and herpes simplex. These are infections caused by bacteria and viruses, respectively. They occur because scratching creates a break in the skin, which allows bacteria and viruses to enter. Limiting scratching can prevent infections, but is not always possible.
Be aware of the signs of infection. See your doctor right away if you believe your skin is infected. Signs of infection include:
Failure to treat infection can cause further complications. These include illness and possible hospitalization.
Neurodermatitis is a skin condition brought on by frequent scratching. This leaves the skin thickened, red, raw, and darker in color than the rest of your skin. While this is not a dangerous condition, it may result in permanent discoloration and thickening of skin even when eczema is not active.
Constant scratching of the skin can cause scarring. The only way to prevent scarring is to not scratch, which can be difficult. Scarring occurs when breaks in the skin heal over. This causes a raised surface or permanent mark where the irritation once was.
Many adults and children with eczema report feeling embarrassed and self-conscious about their skin. Rashes and scaly skin can damage self-esteem. Proper treatment and reduced stress can help to calm the skin condition.
Support groups also help sufferers cope with the physical and emotional symptoms of eczema. The National Eczema Association (NEA) offers information about support groups across the country and telephone support.
Eczema can make exercise difficult to manage. This is because sweat can cause you to itch. Because of this, some people avoid the activities they enjoy when they have a flare-up. Dress in layers so you can cool down during exercise. Try to participate in activities that are in an indoor and air-conditioned setting, as this can reduce sweating. You may want to avoid intense physical activity during an eczema flare-up to reduce physical and mental discomfort.
Many of the complications of eczema can be avoided with treatment and prevention. By preventing flare-ups you can reduce the chance of infection and reduce the potential damage to your confidence.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Jul 16, 2014: Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD
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