Why Is My Skin So Itchy? It Could Be Eczema.

| Posted On Feb 17, 2015 | By:

eczema.shutterstock_181679399Welcome to what I call eczema season, the time of year when the air is colder and therefore holds less humidity. Additionally, the heat is turned up, causing the air in your home or office to be much drier. Both of these factors play a large role in the development of what some refer to as “winter itch.” Your skin gets depleted of its much needed moisture resulting in dry, flaking and itchy skin.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is an itchy, inflamed, red rash that can occur anywhere on the body and is the result of your body’s inability to maintain an effective moisture barrier, a thin layer of oil that seals the skin and protects the body. Eczema can occur at any time during your lifespan. In children, eczema usually develops in the creases of the elbows, behind the knees and on the cheeks and eyelids. Adults, more typically, are affected on the arms, legs, back or chest. There may be little or no rash until you start scratching which is why eczema is sometimes called “the itch that rashes.” When the rash is present, it is often reddened, coarse, dry, flaking and sometimes with little red bumps which correspond to eczema around the hair follicles. Scratching feeds the eczema and makes it worse.

Treatment Options for Eczema

Although the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it is thought to be a result of environmental and hereditary factors. A child is more likely to develop eczema if a parent has had it. Effective treatment of eczema involves implementing skin hygiene measures that preserve the moisture barrier function of the skin, use of moisturizers, and sometimes the use of topical medicines to control the itch.

Things to Consider:

If these at-home skin hygiene treatments are not enough to make your symptoms better, schedule an appointment to see your primary care provider. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication for your eczema or refer you to a dermatologist for further evaluation.


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About Glen Blair, NP

Glen Blair has been a nurse practitioner since 1997 and has been employed at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for nearly 15 years. He is Program Coordinator for the department of dermatology and is in charge of education and special projects for the nursing staff. He is certified as a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner and sees patients at the Chestnut Hill/West Roxbury and Kenmore practices. He teaches a class on dermatology to nurse practitioners and physician assistants at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and has published chapters in dermatology for two textbooks as well as articles in the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses Association. He is also an experienced public speaker, having spoken about dermatology issues at a number of national conferences.


  1. Hey Glen- “natural” types are now saying that petrolatum and it seems most of the other ingredients in mass-produced moisturizers are toxic, either carcinogenic or endocrine disrupting. What say you?

    Comment by Marcia Peters on March 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm
  2. Hi, Marcia. Good point to bring up! It is true that petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, is a product derived from oil. Unrefined, it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which have been shown to cause cancer. In the US and Europe, however, petrolatum is not available in the unrefined form. These hydrocarbons are removed in a refining process that is monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Therefore, the product itself is not carcinogenic, never has been, and never will.


    Thanks for your comment! Best, Glen

    Comment by Harvard Vanguard on March 31, 2015 at 12:37 pm
  3. This was a great post since I do have itchy patches…but especially so in my ears! Not too sure if this is common or not. But did find some helpful hints on how to control the issues. Thank you for sending this out for I bet many people will benefit from it. thank you again

    Comment by Nancy gianoulis on March 18, 2015 at 11:26 pm

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