Weeping Eczema: What Is It, And How To Know If You Have It
By Space Coast Daily // December 29, 2019
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that usually appears in early childhood. It is often inherited and is characterized by red, itchy, and scaly patches of skin.
It is not contagious but can cause a lot of issues for the person who suffers from it.
Eczema can vary in symptoms and severity. It may subside or flare-up on different days. Sometimes, tiny blisters that contain a clear liquid can form and the affected areas can weep.
This is a sign that the skin has become infected, and is usually called weeping eczema.
What is Weeping Eczema?
Weeping eczema is an atopic dermatitis characterized by pus-filled blisters. These sores “weep” which means the pus may seep out of the blisters and cause wetness. The pus is usually clear or yellow in color, which eventually dries up on your skin as a crusty layer.
What causes Weeping Eczema?
Eczema, in general, is caused by the inability to repair any damages to the skin’s barrier. This is due to a certain mutation in the gene called filaggrin.
Filaggrin is essential to the formation of the skin’s barrier. Every skin cell has two copies of this gene. However, people who have eczema only have one copy.
You need only one copy of the filaggrin gene to effectively form the barrier, but you need two for its repair.
If a person with just one copy of the gene’s skin is exposed to different irritants which may harm the skin barrier, its ability to restore the barrier will be limited.
Once the skin barrier is affected, moisture leaves the skin, which causes the skin to be scaly and dry. Environmental allergens, or irritants from the surroundings, may enter the skin and activates a person’s immune system, therefore producing inflammation that makes the skin itchy and red.
Since eczema is due to a problem with genes, you might inherit it from family members with a history of the said illness or any other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.
Weeping eczema is caused by an infection. Since you experience a lot of itchiness, you’ll end up scratching your skin to relieve it.
However, if the skin gets cracked by scratching it too much, harmful microorganisms may enter the exposed area, especially since the person’s ability to restore the skin barrier is not at its best. The usual symptoms of eczema worsen with weeping eczema, and the condition becomes more difficult to treat.
Signs of infection include the following:
- Skin that oozes a golden, yellow, or clear fluid
- Dry, scaly crusts on the skin
- Severe itchiness
- Soreness in the affected area
- Flu-like symptoms
- Tiny, red spots around body hair
- Swollen glands usually located in the neck, armpit, or groin area
Staphylococcus is the most common cause of infection for weeping eczema. It’s a common strain of bacteria, but it can cause a lot of trouble for eczema patients.
The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive bacteria usually found in normal human flora, like the skin or other mucous membranes, but for people affected with eczema have limited protection against bacteria, the infection may become serious.
In fact, more than 90 percent of people who have moderate to severe eczema have staph on their skin’s surface.
Another problem that may cause skin infections in eczema patients is fungal infections. An example of this is tinea, more commonly known as ringworm. Ringworms cause red, scaly, itchy, or raised patches of skin with a characteristic red ring on its outer edges.
When to Seek Medical Advice
As soon as you see that your skin is weeping, or if you suspect that you’ve developed an infection, you should seek the advice of a medical professional right away. Receiving treatment for your skin condition as early as possible can help your doctors treat it.
Your doctor will thoroughly examine the affected skin to see the extent of the infection. He may also ask to have the area swabbed to determine the type of infection you have.
Like previously mentioned, many harmful microorganisms may infect the skin, so it is important to identify which one is the culprit. The results of the swabbing will help your medical team determine the best treatment for your weeping eczema.
Medical Management for Weeping Eczema
Depending on the type of infection present, treatment for eczema varies from case to case. This is why your doctor needs you to undergo a few tests like swabbing.
The swabbing will be able to pinpoint what microorganism caused your infection, and based on the results, your doctor will be able to identify the correct medication.
For example, if the cause of the infection is a virus, your doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication. In the case of bacterial infection, you might need to use either a topical or an oral antibiotic.
For fungal infections, you may expect your doctor to prescribe antifungal creams or pills.
Here are some of the medications frequently prescribed to people with infected eczema:
• Corticosteroid solutions
Corticosteroids may come in the form of creams, ointments, or foams. Treatments made with hydrocortisone steroids can help relieve the itching and reduce the skin inflammation quickly. They usually come in different strengths, so you have to follow your doctor’s prescription.
Usually, doctors prescribe over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams to treat mild eczema. However, if you are weeping eczema, or thick, scaly skin, your doctor might have to ask you to use a more potent medication. You should not worry about side effects such as stretch marks and thinning skin if you take them as directed.
• Oral Corticosteroids
Like corticosteroid-based topical solutions, corticosteroid pills and shots are powerful medications that can help relieve severe eczema, or in this case, weeping eczema. However, they’re not for long-term use, because they may cause unpleasant side effects such as bone loss and skin damage.
There are also some drugs that suppress your immune system, preventing your body’s defenses from reacting to allergens or bacteria too much. They come in the form of liquids, pills, or injections. They can help people with moderate to severe eczema when all other kinds of treatments are ineffective. They also have serious side effects like kidney problems and high blood pressure, so take them only for the shortest time possible.
Too much scratching severely damages the skin, which allows bacteria to get under it, breed, and cause an infection. Once your doctor finds out, if your condition is caused by bacteria, you might need to take an antibiotic.
Antibiotics treat bacterial skin infections. You would need a prescription for it, and you have to take them exactly as your doctor has prescribed to avoid developing a resistance to antibiotics. Be sure to take antibiotics on time and never skip a dose.
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory ointments
NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, don’t just come in pills. There has been a new prescription NSAID called crisaborole which can be used to treat eczema. Applying it twice a day for patients two years old and up has been proven effective in reducing inflammation, which in turn helps the skin return to its normal appearance.
• Barrier Repair Moisturizers
You can get barrier repair moisturizers by prescription and over the counter. Their main purpose is to lock the moisture in your skin and repair any damage.
They also relieve redness, dryness, and itching. However, some products were irritating ingredients or overpowering fragrances, so you should ask your doctor or local pharmacists which kind you should try.
Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are ointments that you rub on your skin to treat moderate to severe eczema. They’re not steroids, but they help reduce inflammation. However, the FDA has issued a warning for the two since they may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and skin cancer. Consult your physician if you’re planning to use them.
Antihistamines are medications that help relieve itching. You should take them at night since they cause drowsiness. Because of this side effect, you can get some sleep, which may be elusive when you experience itchiness.
• Light therapy
If your weeping eczema doesn’t get better with the usual medications, or if you experience the same symptoms rapidly after any treatment, your doctor might resort to light therapy. It involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of sunlight. In some cases, artificial ultraviolet A and narrowband ultraviolet B are also used.
Light therapy is very effective, but using it long-term may cause premature skin aging and may increase the risk of skin cancer. Because of this, it is not given to infants and is used less in young children.
Medications and treatments for eczema depend on your medical history, age, and the severity of the symptoms. One treatment may not be effective for you, so you and your doctor might have to try a different approach from time to time.
Home Remedies to Try
While eczema is hereditary, it is important to note that by taking care of yourself, you can prevent mild eczema from progressing to weeping eczema.
You should follow your medical professional’s treatment plan to help manage and reduce flare. If the flare occurs in a naturally moist area of your skin, or in skin folds, you should keep the area as clean as possible.
Following your doctor’s medical management is not the only thing you should do to control weeping eczema. You can do this by reducing eczema flare and avoiding scratching at all costs.
A person with eczema, no matter what the severity, should always keep his/her skin as clean as possible. You need to take care of your skin to avoid aggravating the symptoms. When your skin is healthy, you’ll be able to prevent itching, dryness, and redness.
Here are a few skincare tips you should try to avoid making eczema symptoms worse:
• Use warm water for bathing.
Hot water will do more harm than good because it can dry your skin. You should opt for a gentler cleanser instead of your usual soap. Annette from OurEczemaStory.com recommends ditching body scrubs and washcloths as they may irritate your skin further. Instead of rubbing, pat dry your skin with a soft towel and try to leave your skin damp.
• Apply moisturizer every day
Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer right after you shower or wash your hands. Choose a brand that won’t irritate your skin. At night, try a thicker ointment or skin eczema cream that has more oil.
• Limit contact with skin irritants
Many things in your household can worsen eczema symptoms. This includes laundry detergents, household cleaners, bubble baths, perfumed soaps, and various cosmetics. Try to learn which substances irritate your skin so you can avoid it.
• Choose comfortable, cotton clothing
Synthetic fibers and wool can be irritating to the skin. Instead, opt for clothes that are made from cotton, and make sure that they’re not constricting. Be sure to wash brand new clothes before you wear them, and use only fragrance-free laundry soap to avoid irritating your skin.
• Try natural alternatives
Some people want to use natural alternatives alongside their medications to help treat infections and prevent them from coming back.
You may want to use essential oils such as evening primrose and tea tree for their natural antibacterial properties.
You may also try oatmeal baths to help soothe eczema. Some patients even try probiotics and herbal supplements. Remember to consult your doctor when taking in supplements to check if they’re compatible with the medications you’ll be taking.
Other approaches that some patients have tried are stress management exercises, biofeedback, and diet modifications. Some studies show that stress can be related to the worsening of the symptoms of eczema.
People have tried different techniques to help lower stress, such as meditation, yoga, or exercise, and have reported experiencing some relief.
Behavior modification, or biofeedback, has also been tried to control a person’s urge to scratch the skin. Lastly, modifying one’s diet to exclude trigger foods have also been reported effective to lessen eczema symptoms.
You don’t have to suffer from weeping eczema all your life. You can do something about it. The best way to know if you have it is to consult a medical professional. See your doctor now and take the right steps so you can be free from eczema.