The skin, the body’s largest organ, may react to something depending on different factors, like allergic reactions to a medication or a food, to mention a few. However, if your skin itches and turns red from time to time, you might have eczema. This skin condition is very common in children, but adults can get it too. Eczema is a condition in which patches of the skin become inflamed itchy, cracked, and rough. Some types can also cause blisters. It is scaly patches of skin that can appear on any part of the body during infancy. In dark skinned tones, these patches can look brown or red, says Alain Kamanzi, a student at University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences. Kamanzi says different conditions can trigger eczema, referring to its different types such as contact dermatitis, which is caused by allergic contact dermatitis, an immune system reaction to an irritant like latex or metal. Irritant contact dermatitis happens when a chemical or other substance irritates the skin. Stasis dermatitis happens when fluid leaks out of weakened veins into the skin. Kamanzi says there is another type of eczema that is triggered by mental illness known as neuro dermatitis. “Stress can worsen eczema due to the way it affects the immune system and skin barrier, as well as other systems in the body,” Kamanzi says. Some research shows that having anxiety is a constant trigger of eczema outbreaks as well. Anxiety can cause somatization, which occurs when psychological concerns are converted into physical symptoms. An eczema outbreak is one possible type of somatization due to anxiety. The symptoms of eczema can vary depending on a person’s age and the condition’s severity and can vary by individual. According to Healthline, the skin becomes inflamed, itchy, cracked, and rough. The lower part of the legs may swell up, especially during the day when one has been walking, legs may ache or feel heavy, and one is also likely to have varicose veins, which are thick, ropey damaged veins in the legs. The skin over those varicose veins will be dry and itchy and you may develop open sores on your lower legs and on the tops of your feet, Healthline notes. Eczema inflames skin all the body and causes relentless itching that can be hard to ignore, damaging the skin barrier function. This loss of barrier function makes the skin more sensitive and more prone to dryness and skin infections which may cause cancer. The condition is as well linked to an increased risk of health conditions such as asthma, hay fever, food allergy, obesity and heart disease. Dr Didier Habimana, a dermatologist, says they are different ways one can deal with the condition. “Someone suffering with eczema should stick to skin products that are fragrance free when showering, or as lotion,” Dr Habimana says. Avoid products that are foaming and instead look for soaps specifically made for eczema or sensitive skin. For moisturisers, usually thicker formulation or ointment-based products are best on the skin, he adds. Dr Habimana says that ceramides are natural lipids that are often lacking in skin with eczema. Look for moisturizers containing ceramides since they are more effective at rebuilding the skin barrier, and eat a well-balanced diet full of healthy fats and protein is generally good for the body. “Fish which is high in omega-3 fatty acids can help to rebuild the skin and fight inflammation triggered by eczema,” Dr Habimana says. Itching tends to be more pronounced at night, hence, scratching will only beget more itch and rash. It is advised that sleeping in a cooler temperature will minimise the propensity to itch. If the condition worsens, seek help from dermatologists to help point your triggers.