The red, scaly, itchy skin associated with eczema can ruin anyone’s day. It may be especially frustrating when you’re moisturizing your skin every chance you get, and still your skin dries, cracks, and demands a good scratch. And you know that scratching the itch only makes things worse.


To add insult to injury, sometimes the itch appears long before the rash. That’s because eczema likely starts with your genetics and immune system — not your skin. Still, protecting your skin from its effects is one of the best ways to manage eczema. Sound confusing?


Dr. Ulrike Ziegner is a highly respected allergist and immunologist, who is also the founder of Riviera Allergy Medical Center. She can help you sort through the confusion regarding eczema and how it’s treated.

Understanding eczema

Eczema is a general term that refers to several types of dermatitis (skin inflammation) and is likely caused by issues with your immune system and genetics.


Individuals with eczema often have a faulty immune system that overreacts to certain triggers. This leads to the inflammation that causes the red, itchy and painful skin symptoms common to most types of eczema.


Research has also shown that some people who have eczema have a mutation affecting the gene that creates filaggrin, which is a protein that helps your body maintain a protective barrier on the uppermost layer of skin. Reduced filaggrin levels restrict your skin’s ability to retain moisture. Without this healthy moisture barrier, your skin becomes dry and more prone to infections.


There are several types of eczema, including:


Atopic dermatitis


Atopic dermatitis, which is the most common form of eczema, typically begins in childhood and is often accompanied by asthma and hay fever.


Contact dermatitis


Contact dermatitis arises from direct contact with various irritants, such as harsh chemicals, certain fabrics, or pet dander

Dyshidrotic eczema


Dyshidrotic eczema causes small, itchy blisters on your hands and feet that often lead to severely dry, cracked, and peeling skin


Discovering the type of eczema you have often helps refine our treatment strategies.

So, is it eczema or dry skin?

Eczema causes dry skin, but dry skin isn’t always due to eczema. Sun exposure, medical conditions like thyroid issues, a new skin care product, and lack of proper hydration can all deplete your skin’s moisture barrier.


Common symptoms that may indicate eczema rather than simple dry skin include:


  • Persistently red, rough, and flaky skin
  • Intense itching
  • Red or brownish to gray skin discoloration
  • Small skin bumps that ooze fluid when scratched
  • Patchy areas of thickened, scaly skin


Eczema symptoms often come and go, worsening for a time and then seeming to fade away, only to reappear after a few months.  

Managing your eczema

Seeing your allergist is often the best first step in managing your eczema. We can identify the type of eczema you’re experiencing and provide treatment with one of many medications or therapies available to control your symptoms.


We can also recommend the best at-home moisturizers and other skin care products for your skin type. Additionally, we’ll help you identify your eczema triggers and offer practical steps for avoiding these substances or activities.


Common triggers that can bring on an eczema flare include:


  • Long, hot, skin-drying showers
  • Irritating clothing, such as wool or synthetic blends such as nylon that don’t “breathe”
  • Contact with harsh cleansers or detergents
  • Increased stress
  • Overheated environments and sweating
  • Dry, windy weather
  • Certain foods
  • Indoor pollutants such as dust
  • Pollen and other allergens


There is no known “cure” for eczema. At Riviera Allergy, however, we partner with you to control your symptoms and prevent eczema from spoiling your day and affecting your skin’s health. To learn more about eczema and how to manage it, schedule your eczema consultation with Dr. Ziegner today.  

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