Plus, how to stop the itching ASAP.
It doesn’t quite feel like winter if you don’t experience a bit of itchy, dry skin from time to time. But there’s a big difference between dealing with occasional itchiness and dryness and living with eczema. If you have eczema, you know it can be quite the challenge to control. It seems like flare-ups can magically appear overnight, but take a whole lot longer to get under control. Not to mention, some eczema can be minimal and itchy, while other cases can develop into large, flakey and dry patches.
And if you have melanin-rich skin, you may find this skin condition to be even more troublesome than others, for a few reasons. First of all, Black skin is notoriously underrepresented in dermatological research. It’s estimated that only 4.5 percent of medical textbooks show conditions on dark skin, according to a study published in Social Science & Medicine. Those inequities in medical literature can make it especially difficult to then recognize skin concerns like eczema on your own skin and then advocate for yourself to get an accurate diagnosis.
That’s why we decided to get the scoop on eczema from a few board-certified dermatologists, to find out how it appears on Black skin, and how it can be diagnosed and treated. Keep reading to learn more about this skin condition and how it affects the Black community.
What is eczema in the first place?
“Eczema is a sort of umbrella term that includes a few itchy skin rashes, but it most commonly refers to the condition known as atopic dermatitis,” says Laura Scott, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate director, skin of color division at UM Frost Dermatology. It’s a chronic condition, she continues, where an overactive immune system leads to an impaired skin barrier that can cause dry, itchy skin, and even skin infections.
What makes this skin condition even more complicated is that it’s not the same across the board. “There are actually multiple forms of eczema ranging in severity and appearance,” Caroline Robinson, MD, Chicago-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology, says. It can appear as early as infancy and usually shows up on the face, elbow and knees. From there, it can eventually spread to other parts of the body.
So what causes eczema?
Basically, the cause of eczema is somewhat unknown. “Some people are born with genetic tendency to develop eczema. However, it is not completely understood why some people develop a more severe form than others or when it develops,” says Dr. Robinson.