Eczema in Adults Versus Baby Eczema

When you’re a baby with eczema, you may be uncomfortable, but you don’t mentally sweat it.  

You don’t fret about which onesie will best cover up your symptoms or worry about what other babies will think of you.  That kind of mental distress is reserved for adults, who may find their symptoms embarrassing, difficult to control and challenging to hide.

The majority of babies will outgrow the skin condition by toddlerhood. But about a 1/3 of eczema babies grow into adults who experience flare-ups throughout their lives.  The eczema can even sit dormant for years, emerging years later and surprising the person who may not even remember having had the condition.  It is encouraging to know that a resurgence after a long dormancy tends to be milder than in childhood.  

Baby Eczema tends to concentrate on the face, neck, wrists, ankles, and “bending” areas like elbows and knees.  Eczema in adults also likes to show up on the “bending areas” of the elbows and backs of knees, and also on hands and the nape of the neck.  

Both children and adults can also get Eczema on the eyelids and in the area around the eyes.  Eczema tends to look and feel slightly different as you age.  If you remember having scaly rashes as a child, you may notice they look drier and darker as an adult.

Adult Onset Atopic Dermatitis

While many people consider Eczema a childhood disease, there is also adult onset Eczema.  You may hear doctors refer to it as Adult Onset Atopic Dermatitis.  While a diagnosis can happen anytime in adulthood, the peak years for developing it is in your 50s. 

The Different Kinds of Eczema

Eczema comes in a few variations which may demand slightly different treatment approaches, making it essential to get an accurate diagnosis from a doctor.  A routine physical exam is all it takes. 

The different kinds of Eczema are:

  • Atopic Dermatitis (most common)
  • Contact Dermatitis  
  • Dyshidrotic Eczema 
  • Discoid Eczema (also known as Nummular Eczema)
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis (commonly called Cradle Cap in babies)
  • Juvenile Plantar Dermatosis (commonly called Sweaty Sock Syndrome)
  • Varicose Eczema (also known as Venous, Gravitational or Stasis Eczema)
  • Asteatotic eczema

More adult sufferers are beginning to speak out about the stigma of Eczema, which can trigger terrible itching, disrupt sleep, and invite stares from people who assume the rashes and scales are contagious.  

If it seems like Eczema is suddenly more prevalent, you’re right. More children and adults than ever are being diagnosed with the condition.  Getting educated about the symptoms, triggers and treatment options is essential because there is no cure.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a general term that umbrellas a group of skin conditions that irritate and inflame, literally making you uncomfortable in your own skin.  But Eczema most commonly refers to the condition called atopic dermatitis. In atopic dermatitis, the skin barrier’s ability to naturally protect itself is damaged, making the skin vulnerable to infection and dryness. This is sensitive skin to the max.  

No two cases are alike, so you may display one or two symptoms or the entire gamut.  Itching could be mild, moderate or unbearable.  It may intensify at night when the body naturally cools (and cooler body temperatures increase the sensation of itchiness). You can have seasonal flare-ups or long periods of dormancy.  

These are Eczema’s assorted symptoms:

• Red, inflamed skin

  • Dryness and sensitivity
  • Cracked skin
  • Peeling and flaking

• Itchiness: Mild to Severe 

• Dark patches of skin

• Leathery, thickened skin texture from years of scratching

• Bumps or blisters that may weep fluid  

Why Do I Have Eczema? And What Can I Do About It?

First off, you didn’t “catch” Eczema or do anything to cause it.  

No one know what precisely causes the skin condition, although scientists do know it often has a strong genetic component, running in families with a history of asthma, hay fever, and other allergies.  You may even be more prone to food sensitivities if you have Eczema.  

You could have either Adult Onset Eczema or a recurrence of the Eczema you had as a child. 

Once you know you have it, it is essential to familiarize yourself with common triggers to avoid flare-ups wherever possible.  This includes talking to your doctor about your potential triggers as well as monitoring yourself, getting to know and understand your body’s reactions to assorted factors.  Triggers can be genetic or environmental.  Certain foods can trigger symptoms in some people.  Illness or stress can play a role.

As your own best guardian against Eczema flare-ups, it’s your job to:

•Know your triggers so you can avoid exposure

•Implement a daily bathing and moisturizing routine

You may not be able to eliminate a beloved pet or control the cold, dry weather that triggers your symptoms, for example, but the right bathing routine will restore essential moisture your skin needs.

When you bathe, use warm (not hot) water and pure cleansers.  Gentle “baby” body washes & shampoos like Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy are just as effective on adult skin.  Whatever you put on your skin should be formulated for itchy, dry, irritated skin.  That means no fragrances, dyes, parabens or sulfates. 

Your skin is already vulnerable.  Restoring hydration at bath time is adding a protective and soothing layer.  Cleansers and creams with glycerine are recommended.

Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, wet dressings, and light therapy as well as over-the-counter oils, ointments or creams.

Living with Eczema

While Eczema can be annoying, frustrating, embarrassing and even painful, it is manageable. 

Taking the time to use the right products, eliminate the wrong ones, and giving your skin the TLC it needs will go a long way in bringing relief and symptom improvement.

In this era of heightened awareness plus widespread access to products formulated for sensitive skin…from cleansers and creams to detergents and household cleaners…it’s easier than ever to live beautifully and make your peace with Eczema.