Coping With Eczema
In spite of progress in our understanding of eczema, this remains for most people a chronic (long-term) and sometimes incurable complaint. It can be difficult to adjust to life with any chronic problem, but with help eczema sufferers and their families can learn to cope effectively with this condition.
Feeling in control
One of the common causes of stress or a low mood is having a persistent problem and not feeling in control or able to cope with it. Simply putting on a brave face for the outside world is not the answer. You will feel more in control of your eczema if you are well informed about its cause, triggers, and understand the different treatment options available. If you are not sure how to use your treatment, ask your doctor or nurse specialist to spend some time explaining this. Try to work with (not against) your doctors and nurses to manage your eczema most effectively. If, like most people, you have a chronic form of eczema, do not build up false hope of a magic cure, but try to accept this as a problem you can learn to live with. Focus your energy on using your treatment regularly and think if there are any ways of changing your lifestyle that could help your skin.
Sharing your problems
Don't suffer in silence. Explain to your friends, family, work or school about how eczema may affect your daily activities, and find someone you feel comfortable with to talk about your problems. Unfortunately, eczema sufferers often complain that their doctors are unaware of just how much eczema affects them. Worse still, some feel that their doctor is just not interested. This is a great pity, because having confidence in your doctor and a good relationship with them is as much a part of treatment as the medication they prescribe. If friends and family can't help in this way, consider joining a self-help group where you can talk with other eczema sufferers.
Stress and eczema
Eczema is not directly caused by stress, although it is possible that stress makes eczema worse, and eczema can certainly be stressful. Many eczema sufferers say that their skin flares up after emotional conflict or with worry and anxiety such as around the time of exams. There is no one answer to managing stress, and we all need to find our own ways of coping with it. For one person, this may be by going out with a group of friends, whereas another person may unwind better by being alone and listening to music or reading.
Young people with eczema need to think carefully about their choice of career as certain occupations put added strain on the skin through exposure to irritants or low humidity. Try to lead as full and normal a life with regard to your social life and hobbies. For example, you may need to allow extra time in the changing room to apply creams after playing sport or going to the gym. Cigarette smoke can irritate eczema on exposed body sites, particularly the face, apart from having so many other harmful effects, so try and avoid smoky places. Alcohol in excess can also cause skin dehydration and lead to an eczema flare.
Problems with children and teenagers
When a child has eczema the whole family's life can be affected because of disturbed sleep, special diets and the time and attention needed for treatment and visits to the doctor. However, one benefit for the parents is that these children are often bright and highly intelligent. Remember that most children's eczema improves as they grow up and that children do not usually dwell on past or future problems. Keep a positive outlook about your child's skin complaint, although this may be difficult at times, and everyone will cope better.
Atopic eczema often improves in teenagers once puberty starts and the skin becomes oilier. It may persist, however, and cause particular problems in this age group because of its impact on appearance and choice of clothing at a time in life when these are very important to the individual. Adolescents are often extremely selfconscious about any skin complaints, especially on visible sites such as the hands and face. Some young people go through a rebellious phase where they give up their treatment as an act of protest. Extra patience, understanding and support may be needed in managing eczema in this age group in order to help the individual cope with their chronic skin condition and to accept responsibility for its treatment.
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