What is eczema?
Eczema, formally called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, inflamed patches of red scaly skin. As many as 30 million American suffer from eczema, according to the National Eczema Association. Because this condition is so itchy, patients often scratch their skin continually, causing lesions that can become crusty and ooze. Eczema usually begins in early childhood and flares up periodically then subsides.
What causes eczema?
The cause of eczema is not known, but it is thought to have a genetic component, as the condition often runs in families. Eczema is most likely the result of various factors, including: dryness, a reduction in the skin’s barrier that locks in moisture, immune system dysfunction, bacteria on the skin’s surface, and environmental conditions.
How is eczema treated?
While there is no cure for eczema, the doctor’s at MDCS can help alleviate symptoms and control flare-ups. Treatment options include:
- Corticosteroid cream or ointments to control itching and inflammation.
- Creams, called calcineurin inhibitors, that help repair the skin.
- Oral antibiotics, prescribed if a bacterial skin infection is present, due to open sores or cracked skin, caused by scratching.
- Oral anti-itch medication.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, either taken orally or injected.
- Light therapy, which involves exposure to controlled amounts of artificial ultraviolet light.
How can I manage or prevent symptoms?
There are a number of preventative steps that patients can take to minimize flare-ups. These include:
- Moisturizing daily
- Wearing cotton or soft fabrics, while avoiding rough, scratchy ones, as well as, tight-fitting clothes.
- Taking lukewarm, not hot, baths and showers, with mild soap or non-soap cleansing products
- Bathing in oatmeal for 10-15 minutes, at least once a day.
- Bathing in a diluted bleach bath. Ask your doctor for specific instructions. Typically, a few tablespoons of unscented bleach in a full tub of lukewarm water is recommended.
- Learn your specific triggers – which can range from foods to pet dander - and avoid them.
- Utilize a humidifier when weather is dry or cold.
- Trim fingernails short to prevent scratching and breaking the skin.