What Happens When Eczema Gets Really Bad?

Imagine that you wake up one morning and notice that your skin is covered in red, itchy patches. As the day goes on, the itching intensifies, and you find it nearly impossible to resist scratching. Welcome to the world of severe eczema. In this article, we will explore what it’s like when eczema reaches its worst stage and the impact it can have on your daily life. From the relentless itching to the constant discomfort, we will delve into the challenges faced by those dealing with this skin condition at its most severe. But fear not, because we will also discuss treatment options and strategies to manage and alleviate the symptoms, allowing you to regain control over your skin’s health.

Severe Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that affects many individuals around the world. While it can range in severity from mild to severe, when eczema gets really bad, it can cause a wide range of distressing symptoms. Let’s explore some of the severe symptoms of eczema and their impact on your daily life.

Extreme Itching and Discomfort

One of the most unbearable symptoms of severe eczema is the extreme itching and discomfort it causes. The constant urge to scratch can be overwhelming and can interfere with your ability to concentrate on daily activities. The intense itching sensation can lead to worsening inflammation, further exacerbating the severity of your eczema.

Severe Dryness and Cracking

Severe eczema often goes hand in hand with severe dryness and cracking of the skin. Your skin becomes excessively dry, making it feel tight and uncomfortable. As the skin dries out, it loses its natural moisture barrier, leaving it vulnerable to environmental irritants and pathogens. This can lead to further complications, such as infections.

Intense Redness and Inflammation

Another characteristic of severe eczema is intense redness and inflammation of the affected areas. Your skin may appear red, swollen, and inflamed, causing significant discomfort and self-consciousness. The redness can spread to larger areas of your body, making it even more challenging to manage and treat.

Infection Risk

When eczema gets really bad, the risk of developing infections becomes a major concern. The compromised skin barrier and constant scratching create an optimal environment for bacteria and viruses to invade.

Bacterial Infections

With severe eczema, the risk of developing bacterial infections such as impetigo or cellulitis increases significantly. Bacteria can easily enter through the broken skin, causing painful, oozing lesions and further worsening the symptoms of eczema. These infections may require antibiotics to resolve and can prolong the healing process of your eczema.

Viral Infections

In some severe cases, eczema can lead to viral infections. Eczema herpeticum, for example, is a potentially serious infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. It presents as painful, fluid-filled blisters that can quickly spread and cause systemic symptoms. Prompt medical attention is crucial when dealing with viral infections associated with eczema.

Sleep Disturbances

As if dealing with the physical discomfort of severe eczema isn’t challenging enough, it can also significantly disrupt your sleep patterns. Sleep disturbances associated with eczema can have a profound impact on your overall well-being.


Itching and discomfort can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, resulting in insomnia. The relentless itching sensation can keep you awake long into the night, leaving you feeling exhausted and drained the next day. The lack of quality sleep can also worsen your eczema symptoms, creating a vicious cycle of itching and sleep deprivation.

Restless Sleep

Even if you manage to fall asleep, the constant itching and discomfort can lead to restless sleep. You may find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night, trying to find relief from the itchiness. This fragmented sleep can leave you feeling irritable, fatigued, and less able to cope with your daily activities.

Impact on Daily Activities

Severe eczema can significantly impact your ability to perform daily activities, from simple tasks to work or school obligations. The physical discomfort and psychological effects can make it challenging to focus and function at your best.

Difficulty Performing Tasks

The intense itching and discomfort can make it difficult to concentrate on even the simplest tasks. Your mind becomes preoccupied with finding relief, leaving little room for productivity. Whether it’s completing household chores or meeting work deadlines, severe eczema can hinder your ability to perform tasks efficiently.

Challenges in Personal Care

Managing personal care routines can become a challenge when dealing with severe eczema. The discomfort, pain, and limitations caused by the condition may make it difficult to maintain proper hygiene or carry out skincare routines effectively. Simple activities like bathing or applying moisturizers can become overwhelming tasks, further contributing to the distress caused by eczema.

Impact on Work or School

Severe eczema can have a significant impact on your work or school life. The physical symptoms can make it difficult to attend classes or perform daily work duties. The psychological effects, such as anxiety and depression, can also affect your motivation and ability to excel in your professional or academic endeavors. It’s important to communicate with your employers or educators about your condition and explore accommodations that can help minimize the impact of severe eczema on your responsibilities.

Psychological Effects

The visible symptoms and constant discomfort of severe eczema can take a toll on your mental health. The psychological effects of eczema are often underestimated but should not be overlooked.


Living with severe eczema can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression. The physical discomfort, social isolation, and impact on daily activities can contribute to a loss of enjoyment in life. It’s essential to seek support from healthcare professionals who can provide guidance and help you navigate the emotional challenges associated with severe eczema.


The stress and anxiety caused by severe eczema can have a profound impact on your daily life. Constantly worrying about flare-ups, managing symptoms, and dealing with the social implications can heighten feelings of anxiety. It’s crucial to develop coping strategies and seek professional help to manage anxiety and prevent it from controlling your life.

Social Impact

Living with severe eczema can also have a significant impact on your social life and relationships. The visible symptoms and psychological effects can lead to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, and isolation.

Embarrassment and Self-consciousness

Severe eczema can cause visible skin changes that may make you feel self-conscious and embarrassed in social situations. The redness, inflammation, and potentially visible scarring can draw unwanted attention and comments from others, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. It’s important to remember that your worth is not defined by your skin condition and to surround yourself with supportive individuals who understand and accept you regardless of your eczema.

Isolation and Avoidance

Feeling embarrassed or self-conscious about your eczema may lead to social isolation and avoidance of certain situations. You may choose to avoid social events, get-togethers, or even intimate relationships to protect yourself from potential judgment and scrutiny. However, isolating yourself can further exacerbate the psychological effects of eczema. It’s important to cultivate a support system of understanding friends, family, or support groups who can provide empathy and encouragement during challenging times.

Scratching and Scarring

When eczema gets really bad, excessive scratching can occur, leading to potential complications such as skin thickening and permanent scarring.

Skin Thickening

Repeatedly scratching itchy areas of eczema can cause the skin to thicken over time. This condition, known as lichenification, can make your skin feel rough, leathery, and less flexible. The thickened skin may be more prone to further irritation and can make it more challenging to manage and treat your eczema.

Permanent Scarring

In severe cases, intense scratching can result in permanent scarring. The constant trauma to the skin can leave visible marks that can take a toll on your self-confidence and overall well-being. It’s important to seek proper medical care and avoid excessive scratching to prevent irreversible scarring.

Treatment Options

When dealing with severe eczema, there are various treatment options available to help manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs.

Topical Steroids

Topical steroids are commonly prescribed to reduce inflammation and itching associated with severe eczema. They work by suppressing the immune response and alleviating symptoms. It’s important to follow the prescribed instructions and monitor for any potential side effects of prolonged steroid use.


Regular and consistent use of moisturizers is essential for managing severe eczema. Moisturizers help to hydrate and replenish the skin’s moisture barrier, reducing dryness and minimizing itching. Look for moisturizers specifically formulated for eczema-prone skin and apply them regularly, especially after bathing.


Antihistamines may be recommended by your healthcare provider to help relieve itching and promote better sleep. They can help reduce the constant urge to scratch and provide temporary relief. It’s crucial to discuss with your doctor the appropriate dosage and potential side effects of antihistamines.


In severe cases of eczema that do not respond well to other treatment options, immunosuppressants may be considered. These medications work by suppressing the immune system to reduce inflammation. However, they come with potential risks and side effects, so careful monitoring and consultation with a dermatologist are necessary.

Preventing Severe Eczema

While severe eczema can be challenging to manage, there are steps you can take to prevent it from worsening and reduce the frequency of flare-ups.

Avoiding Triggers

Identifying and avoiding triggers specific to your eczema can greatly help in preventing severe symptoms. Common triggers include certain fabrics, harsh soaps or detergents, allergens, and extreme changes in temperature and humidity. Pay attention to your body’s reactions and try to minimize exposure to known triggers.

Proper Skincare Routine

Establishing a proper skincare routine is crucial for managing severe eczema. Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers designed for sensitive skin. Avoid hot showers or baths, as they can strip the skin of natural oils. Instead, opt for lukewarm water and pat your skin dry with a soft towel. Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.

Managing Stress

Stress can exacerbate eczema symptoms, so finding healthy ways to manage stress is key. Engage in activities that help you relax and unwind, such as practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Regular physical activity and getting enough sleep can also contribute to stress reduction.

Regular Doctor Visits

Regular visits to your healthcare provider are essential for monitoring your eczema and adjusting treatment plans accordingly. They can provide valuable guidance, prescribe appropriate medications, and monitor any potential complications or changes in your condition. Keeping an open line of communication with your doctor is crucial in managing severe eczema effectively.


Long-term and severe eczema can increase the risk of developing certain complications. It’s essential to be aware of these potential complications and seek appropriate medical care.


Severe eczema is often associated with an increased risk of developing asthma, a chronic respiratory condition. The inflammation and immune dysregulation seen in eczema can also affect the airways, leading to asthma symptoms. It’s important to monitor any respiratory symptoms and seek medical attention if you suspect asthma.

Allergic Reactions

Individuals with severe eczema may also be more prone to allergic reactions. The compromised skin barrier and immune dysfunction can make it easier for allergens to enter the body, triggering allergic responses. It’s important to identify and avoid potential allergens and seek prompt medical attention in case of severe allergic reactions.

Eye Problems

Severe eczema can also affect the delicate skin around the eyes, leading to eye problems. Itchy, inflamed eyelids, dry eyes, and eye infections can occur. Seeking care from an optometrist or ophthalmologist can help manage these eye-related complications.

Eczema Herpeticum

Eczema herpeticum, a rare but serious complication of severe eczema, occurs when the herpes simplex virus infects the eczema-affected skin. It presents as painful, rapidly spreading clusters of fluid-filled blisters. Prompt medical attention is crucial to prevent further complications associated with this viral infection.

In conclusion, severe eczema can significantly impact your quality of life, causing distressing symptoms and affecting your mental and emotional well-being. It’s crucial to seek proper medical care and explore treatment options that can help manage the symptoms effectively. By following preventive measures, establishing a skincare routine, and managing stress, you can take control of your eczema and improve your overall well-being. Remember, you are not alone in your journey, and with the right support and resources, you can navigate the challenges of severe eczema successfully.