Skin conditions are uncomfortable and distressing and occur for many reasons, like allergic reactions, bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, or a weak immune system. Genetic factors are also responsible for the same. Eczema makes the skin patches itchy and dry. It is common, affecting over 31 million Americans.
Menopause comes with several symptoms, and hormonal imbalances are responsible for the same. The low estrogen levels have an impact on all parts of your body. It also impairs the proper functioning of the skin, making you susceptible to several skin conditions. Thin and dry skin seems quite common in menopause, which triggers eczema. Read on to learn the causes of eczema in menopause, alongside the symptoms, treatments, and management strategies.
What Causes Eczema in Menopause?
Most of the symptoms you face during menopause are because of the reduced estrogen levels, and your skin problem isn’t an exception. You are mistaken if you think estrogen’s only function is to help in reproduction.
This hormone has a whole lot of other functions also. It initiates the function of the cardiovascular system, the brain, heart, breast, bones, skin, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and hair.
Estrogen helps to maintain skin health. The structural protein collagen accounts for the stretchiness and elasticity of the skin, alongside keeping joints healthy. Though you will have collagen throughout your body, the maximum collagen is present around the facial region as that part has maximum estrogen receptors.
There’s a link between collagen and estrogen. High estrogen levels mean increased collagen production, which accounts for plump, supple, and smooth skin. Similarly, declining estrogen levels lead to low collagen, resulting in dry, thin, itchy, and wrinkled skin. The AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) states that 30% collagen loss occurs in the initial five years of the menopausal phase. Then, the rate of collagen loss slows to 2% for the succeeding 20 years.
So, it is evident that in menopause, the skin loses its shine, elasticity, and fullness and becomes dry, itchy, scaly, and inflamed. This makes women prone to eczema and other skin conditions like hives, acne, etc.
Besides dryness and itchiness, the common signs of eczema, women may undergo other skin changes. These include:
- Acne growth
- Increased facial hair
- Wrinkled or sagging skin
- Increased facial hair
- Easy bruising of skin (since the skin becomes thinner)
- More prolonged healing of skin wounds due to low levels of collagen
The reduced estrogen supply affects your vaginal lining, too. It becomes less stretchy and thin, leading to dryness. The outcome is a burning sensation, itchiness, and pain.
What are the Symptoms of Eczema?
When you have eczema, during menopause or even before it, these are some of the common symptoms you are likely to encounter:
- Dried skin (as the barrier function of the skin weakens, making it lose its ability to retain moisture and stay hydrated)
- Itchiness (because when the skin gets affected with eczema, chemical mediators are released, which triggers itchiness)
- Skin rashes ( due to the dryness and sensitivity of the skin, which could intensify upon the skin’s exposure to allergens or any other triggers)
- Bumps on the skin (due to lessened moisture)
- Thick and leathery patches on the skin ( the skin becomes itchy, and the more you scratch, the itchiness increases since your skin’s nerve fibers become activated, resulting in leathery, thick, and discolored skin.)
- Swelling (as the skin as the skin gets inflamed, making the blood vessels dilated)
- Flaky and scaly skin (because of the dryness and lack of moisture)
- Oozing of the skin (occurs when you have weeping eczema, i.e., the eczema has pus-filled blisters)
These are the main symptoms of eczema. When you suffer from this condition, you could have any of these symptoms or a combination. The symptoms could aggravate and worsen at the slightest trigger, like skin’s exposure to allergens.
How Does the Eczema Rash Appear?
The eczema rash’s appearance varies from person to person, depending on skin tone. When someone has dark skin, the rash could appear gray, purple, or brown. For those with a light skin tone, the coloration of the rash might be purple, pink, or red.
How to Treat Eczema In Menopause?
When you are in perimenopause or have already gone through menopause and been affected with eczema, you must contact your healthcare provider immediately. He will examine you thoroughly and suggest treatment measures according to the severity of your condition.
Here are some of the treatment procedures often prescribed during eczema.
1. Applying Emollients to Dry Skin
The first line of treatment for eczema is the application of emollients, which help moisturize the skin and lessen dryness. Though many prefer to purchase over-the-counter ointments, it is always advisable to consult the doctor. He will be the best person to prescribe the emollient that suits your skin.
The emollients are available in various forms, like lotions, creams, ointments, and sprays. You should check the ingredients in the moisturizers well. Avoid the ones with fragrances, as they could further irritate your skin. You could use the emollient to wash your skin while bathing instead of applying soap. In this way, it may prevent the skin from getting dried further. Emollients are effective for eczema and other skin conditions like ichthyosis and psoriasis.
2. Administer Topical Steroids
Sometimes, the doctor prescribes topical steroids when the skin is inflamed. This could be applied alongside the emollients. The topical steroids are available as creams, gels, lotions, bandages, ointments, tapes, and solutions. Their strengths vary from mild to moderate, potent to very potent.
Topical steroids will be prescribed when the skin is highly inflamed. If the infection doesn’t clear within two weeks of applying the steroid, consult your doctor. He might opt for more potent steroids to combat infections.
How to Manage Eczema in Menopause? 7 Important Tips
When you have eczema, irrespective of whether you are in menopause or not, managing the condition is crucial. The better you are at management, the faster it will help the recovery process. In menopause, the hormonal imbalances will already contribute to the dryness and itchiness of your skin. That’s why you need to be even more careful.
Here are some of the ways to manage eczema in menopause.
- Ensure that the skin products you are using are fragrant-free, as they irritate the skin and exacerbate the symptoms of eczema. You must also use fragrant-free detergents to wash your sheets, clothes, and towels. Whenever you go for a skin product, test it on a small patch of your skin. If you do not experience any rashes or discomfort, you could use it or else avoid the product.
- Eczema makes your skin dry and itchy. So, moisturizing your skin is of utmost importance. You can do that after a shower or anytime your skin gets dried.
- If you’ve loved to comfort yourself with a hot shower when you have eczema, you’ve got to give up this habit, as it will dry your skin further, leading to irritation. Taking short showers in lukewarm water will help. Dry yourself with a cotton towel, and moisturize your skin well after a bath.
- When you are affected with eczema, you should wear loose-fitting clothes of breathable fabric. This gives the skin sufficient breathing space and will prevent irritation.
- Following a healthy diet helps you manage the symptoms of eczema by fighting against infection. Your diet must comprise fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and legumes. People differ from each other in food allergies. You should identify the foods that trigger allergies and avoid having them, as it could worsen your eczema symptoms.
- You should stay hydrated as it will replenish your skin and help it remain moisturized.
- Menopause will make you stressed as it is overwhelming to handle the symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, etc. But you must find ways to cope with the stress. Exercise well, practice relaxation techniques, and try things that make you happy. Remember, stress is one of the eczema triggers and could worsen it.
The typical spots where eczema may occur include your hands, neck, feet, ankles, elbows, cheeks, area surrounding the ears and lips. However, you could even experience them in your breasts, nipple, or skin surrounding the vagina.
In menopause, the slightest change in your health should be informed to the doctor. Regarding eczema, seek medical help if the skin condition has spread to larger areas of your body. It would be best if you even talked to the doctor when the OTC treatment you opted for didn’t improve the eczema. If it is eczema, then consulting a dermatologist will do. But, a gynecologist’s opinion is also needed if you are facing vaginal dryness and hot flashes worsening the eczema.
Eczema could trigger or flare up due to several factors. These include:
• Dry weather
• Products with perfume or fragrance
• Pollutants and Smoke
• Detergents and soaps
Most menopausal symptoms last around four or five years after menopause and gradually lessen in intensity and frequency. The same goes for eczema, mainly if it has occurred due to fluctuating hormonal levels. However, you must still work towards caring for your skin to ensure the eczema doesn’t aggravate. You can consult your healthcare provider about ways to manage eczema.
With menopause, your skin loses its moisture-retaining ability and gets dry and itchy. This makes your skin sensitive to heat. So, during an episode of hot flashes, where the skin heats, your eczema could flare, making you feel more miserable.
Hormone replacement therapy has effectively managed menopausal symptoms like mood swings, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes. However, its role in coping with eczema isn’t researched well. However, if your eczema has been triggered during menopause, doctors could opt for hormone replacement therapy to see if it helps.
The doctor will take a look at your skin and may opt for an allergy test, bloodwork, or even a skin biopsy. This is required to confirm if the skin rashes and dryness are due to eczema or other conditions.
When in menopause, your body will go through umpteen symptoms that will take a toll on your emotional well-being. And, an added skin problem will bring in more menace. That’s why properly caring for your skin is essential to control dryness and itchiness. If you notice anything unusual in your skin, do not neglect it, but contact a doctor immediately.