- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
What is Eczema?
What Causes Eczema?
Treatments for Eczema
Living with eczema can be difficult especially if it is not under control. Eczema also known as atopic dermatitis is a lifelong tendency to an allergic condition such as asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) that causes inflammation of the skin, which can be uncomfortable and even painful. But following the Four R’s (recognize, remove, restore and regulate) for treating eczema can help to alleviate the pain and irritation caused by eczema.
RECOGNIZE THAT IS ECZEMA
The first step is to understand that the irritation is eczema; eczema is a very common condition and can develop from the skin coming into contact with anything foreign. This happens specifically with people who are extra sensitive. The skin when affected by eczema is usually dry, patchy and flaky and has red and inflamed areas where the rash appears. Eczema is extremely itchy and can sometimes burn. Eczema is a chronic or recurrent disorder and can be a difficult, frustrating condition. Scratching and rubbing the inflamed area is a typical reaction however it also makes the condition much worse; making it ooze and become crusty and possibly causing infection. Eczema is not contagious, is thought to be hereditary and usually exists in people who have allergies and/or asthma. Eczema is usually found on the face, arms and legs as well as other parts of the body.
REMOVE THE IRRITANT
Since eczema is activated by the immune system it is important to lessen contact with the allergen that triggers the reaction. The difficult part is trying to figure out what the trigger might be some common triggers are: soaps, detergents, weather especially extreme temperatures, environmental allergens, jewelry, creams, foods, clothing, sweating, latex, metals, bacteria and stress. Even after removing the irritant it can take time for the skin to restore especially if it is a detergent in clothing and that clothing has not been rewashed. It is possible for the irritant to stick around even after it is has been taken out of the environment. Being able to find the irritant and remove it is the first step in calming the skin and avoiding outbreaks.
RESTORE THE SKIN
After the removal of irritant or whatever is causing the inflammation it is time to start restoring the skin. Some helpful hints are taking warm not hot showers instead of baths, using mild soaps and patting the body dry after the skin is wet and immediately applying a moisturizing lotion to keep your skin well hydrated. Make sure that the lotions that are chosen are fragrant free, there are many lotions and oils that are made especially to help eczema, these can be more expensive but well worth the price if it keeps your skin hydrated and keeps you eczema free. While the skin is restoring avoid scratching the rash; if scratching is unavoidable try to cover the area with hydrocortisone cream (sometimes an anti-itching cream can work too). These creams can also be used if you are not able to identify what is causing the eczema outbreaks. Apply the creams often to help restore the skin even after the rash has gone. In addition Benadryl can be taken to help curb the itching and inflammation (this is good to take at night since it might cause drowsiness and eczema can lead to sleeplessness). Doing all of these things in conjunction with each other will help to restore the skin quickly; but do not expect an immediate response it takes a bit of time for the irritation to subside especially if it is a severe breakout and if the breakout is in multiple locations of the body. If the eczema is severe it might be necessary to get prescription strength steroid creams or antihistamine medications, even corticosteroids which is an oral steroid or antibiotics/antifungal creams are necessary. In some cases diets need to be changed because it is possible that the eczema is caused by a food allergy.
REGULATE THE CONDITION
Eczema can be regulated if you continue to take care of your skin on a daily basis. Make sure that the irritations are away from your skin by avoiding any possible triggers. Take all of your medications Benadryl and/or antihistamines; keep your skin clean, dry and moisturized. At the first sign of itchy skin start the process of applying creams immediately to avoid serious outbreaks or irritations. Keeping on top of the condition will help to keep the eczema under control, of course there are situations that might be unavoidable but if you are keeping a close watch and continue to be proactive it will help to curtail severe outbreaks.
If the eczema is not easily controlled it may be time to consider seeing a doctor because eczema and scratching can cause sores and cracks that are susceptible to infection. These infections might require antibiotics to treat and can become very severe. Keep watch of the eczema and your skin to ensure that this does not happen and if you are not sure please see a doctor because they can prescribe medication that can control the eczema from becoming an infection and if there is an infection they can treat the infection before it becomes serious.
For those that have eczema they understand that it can quite uncomfortable to somewhat unbearable even causing sleepless nights from the itching and burning associated with the rash. Keeping eczema under control is extremely important to avoid infection however sometimes it is hard to manage especially when there are unknown irritants. Figuring out the irritants is the first step however if that cannot be done then it is important to medicate the area by keeping it clean and dry and moisturizing often. Using antihistamines and hydrocortisone creams will help to alleviate the itching so that the rash can heal. If you think that you might have eczema and are unable to control it you should seek medical attention to ensure that it is not something else or so that if it is eczema so that the doctors can help you to treat the condition appropriately. Living with eczema can be done; many people currently are, simply stay diligent in your treatment and get that healthy skin back.
- The American Academy of Dermatology
The American Academy of Dermatology is committed to advancing the science of medicine and surgery related to promoting a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails.