What is Eczema?
Eczema is one of the most common rashes we see in our office. In fact, nearly 30 million Americans suffer from some form of eczema.
The rash appears as red scaly patches of skin and tends to be very itchy. Itch often precedes the rash which is why eczema is commonly referred to as “the itch that rashes.” Eczema most commonly appears in childhood and goes away as a child grows older, but it can start at any point in life. More severe cases of eczema are often referred to as atopic dermatitis.
What Causes Eczema?
While an exact cause of eczema is not known, there are certainly genetic and environmental factors involved. Eczema tends to run in families. Eczema is a problem with the skin barrier. In normal skin, the skin provides excellent protection to external substances that could damage or irritate the skin. In those with eczema, the skin barrier isn’t fully intact which causes increased water loss, leading to dry and irritated skin. This poor barrier also allows external substances to cause a localized immune response leading to increased inflammation and itching.
How Is Eczema Treated?
Unfortunately, there is not a definitive cure for eczema, but there are highly effective management strategies to control eczema. Fortunately, most people eventually outgrow their eczema. Treatment is focused on managing symptoms and improving the skin barrier to reduce dryness and irritation of the skin. To help those with eczema, we emphasize the following management strategies:
- Avoid hot baths or showers as these dry out the skin.
- Use mild soaps such as Dove or Cetaphil.
- Moisturize immediately after bathing.
- Use moisturizers as often as needed throughout the day.
More severe cases may require the use of prescription medications to get the rash under control. We most commonly use the following treatments to manage eczema:
Topical Steroids: These topical anti-inflammatory medications are a mainstay of treatment in those with mild to moderate eczema.
Oral Antibiotics: In cases where a bacterial infection is present, these may be used to clear the infection and decrease inflammation.
Oral Steroids: Use of systemic anti-inflammatory medications such as prednisone are reserved for short term use in severe cases not able to controlled with more conservative methods.
NBUVB Phototherapy: This in-office treatment is used to reduce itching and inflammation in those with extensive involvement of their skin. See our section on NBUVB for more information.
If you or your child suffers from eczema, please call and schedule an appointment with one of our providers. Eczema can be controlled with a proper treatment plan and we will be happy to help make this happen.