Eczema is a general term for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The most common type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis. It is a chronic condition that causes itchy, red, and inflamed skin. It is most common in babies and children, but it can also affect adults.
There are several other types of eczema, including contact dermatitis, nummular eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis.
Symptoms of eczema can vary, but they often include dry, itchy skin, rashes, and redness. The severity of the symptoms can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the skin can crack, bleed, and become infected.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it is thought to be related to an overactive immune system, a deficiency in the skin’s barrier function, and environmental factors. It is not contagious.
There is no cure for eczema, but it can be managed with treatments such as moisturizers, anti-inflammatory creams, and medications. In some cases, avoiding triggers that cause flare-ups can also help.
Treatments for Eczema
There are several treatments that can help manage eczema and reduce symptoms. The specific treatment plan will depend on the severity of the eczema and the individual’s age, overall health, and other factors. Treatment options for eczema may include:
- Moisturizers: Using a moisturizer on the skin can help reduce dryness and itching. It is important to use a moisturizer right after showering or bathing, while the skin is still damp, to help lock in moisture.
- Topical corticosteroids: These are creams or ointments that contain corticosteroids and can help reduce inflammation. They are usually the first line of treatment for eczema and are available in various strengths.
- Antihistamines: These medications can help reduce itching and can be taken orally or applied topically.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors: These medications, such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus, can help reduce inflammation and are used as alternatives to corticosteroids in some cases.
- Phototherapy: This treatment involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural or artificial light. It can be effective for people with moderate to severe eczema who have not responded to other treatments.
- Oral medications: In severe cases of eczema, a healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressants, to help control the condition.
It is important to follow the treatment plan recommended by a healthcare provider and to use medications as directed. Overusing or improperly using topical corticosteroids can cause serious side effects.
In addition to medical treatment, there are also some self-care measures that can help manage eczema. These may include:
- Using lukewarm water and gentle soap when showering or bathing
- Avoiding hot water, which can strip the skin of its natural oils
- Patting the skin dry instead of rubbing it
- Using a humidifier to add moisture to the air
- Wearing loose, comfortable clothing made of natural fibers
- Avoiding triggers that can cause flare-ups, such as certain fabrics, fragrances, and stress
If you think you or someone you know may have eczema, it is important to see a dermatologist or other healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.