Eczema (also known as, atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition in which individuals have an intensely itchy, red rash. Eczema most frequently affects infants and children but can occur at any age. Eczema tends to run in families and is often associated with asthma and hay fever. There is no cure for eczema, however many treatments exist that help relieve itching, reduce inflammation, and prevent flares.
Eczema Signs and Symptoms
The most common locations for eczema are the face, neck, fronts of the elbows, backs of the knees, and the arms and legs. Individuals with eczema may demonstrate a range of signs and symptoms, including:
- Dry skin,
- Itching – especially at nighttime,
- Red-to-brown patches,
- Fluid filled bumps,
- Cracked, scaling skin,
- Red, swollen skin from scratching
- Thick crusted areas from superimposed infection
Causes of Eczema
The exact cause of eczema is unknown. It is thought that genetic and environmental factors play a contributing role. Genetic defects have been found that prevent the skin from retaining moisture and protecting the skin from bacteria, irritants and allergens. Likewise, environmental factors (for instance, heat, humidity, detergents, soaps, scratchy clothing, chemicals, smoke, and stress) may trigger eczema.
Self-Care for Eczema
For individuals with eczema, it is critical to maintain adequate moisture in your skin. The following self-care measures may help prevent flares of eczema:
- Use non-soap cleansers (such as, Cetaphil) or moisturizing soaps (such as, Dove).
- Moisturize your skin at least twice a day.Use thick, fragrant-free moisturizers (such as, Vaseline, Aquaphor ointment, Eucerin cream, CeraVe cream, Vanicream lotion, Cetaphil cream).
- Avoid exposure to heat, humidity, soaps, detergents, chemical, smoke, stress and other factors that may trigger or worse your condition.
- Take shorter baths or showers (less than 10-15 minutes in duration). Use warm rather than hot water.
- After bathing, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
Potential topical or oral treatment options may include:
- Topical corticosteroid creams or ointments,
- Topical steroid-sparing agents – calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) and phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors such as crisaborole (Eucrisa),
- Oral antihistamines such as Hydroxyzine, Benadryl, and Zyrtec to reduce itching,
- Topical antibiotics or oral antibiotics to treat superimposed bacterial infections,
- Dilute bleach baths to reduce bacterial colonization and infections,
- Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone in more severe cases, and
- Newer options for severe eczema such as the recently FDA approved injectable biologic called dupilumab (Dupixent).
If you are interested in learning more about treatment options for your eczema, please call Heller Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery to schedule your appointment!