- Eczema: Symptoms, treatment, and causes
- Symptoms in infants under 2 years old
- Symptoms in children aged 2 years until puberty
- Symptoms in adults
- Home care
- 12 best natural remedies for eczema
- Eczema: What’s the Best Treatment for You?
- Eczema Management and Treatment
- What complications are associated with eczema?
- Can eczema be cured?
- How To Fight Eczema – 12 Dermatologist-Tested Products for Eczema
- What is eczema?
- What are the different types of eczema?
- What causes eczema?
- Does eczema get worse in different seasons?
- How can I reduce eczema scarring?
- Do over-the-counter eczema options exist?
- What recommendations do you have for over-the-counter creams?
- When should you seek medical attention?
- Should I use different products for different areas?
- Lastly, a special note about scrubs:
Eczema: Symptoms, treatment, and causes
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Eczema is a condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough. Blisters may sometimes occur.
Different stages and types of eczema affect 31.6 percent of people in the United States.
The word “eczema” is also used specifically to talk about atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema.
“Atopic” refers to a collection of diseases involving the immune system, including atopic dermatitis, asthma, and hay fever. Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin.
Some people outgrow the condition, while others will continue to have it throughout adulthood.
This MNT Knowledge Center article will explain what eczema is and discuss the symptoms, causes, treatments, and types.
Share on PinterestEczema can cause dry and itchy rashes.
Image credit: G Steph Rocket, 2015.
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary, depending on the age of the person with the condition.
Atopic dermatitis commonly occurs in infants, with dry and scaly patches appearing on the skin. These patches are often intensely itchy.
Most people develop atopic dermatitis before the age of 5 years. Half of those who develop the condition in childhood continue to have symptoms as an adult.
However, these symptoms are often different to those experienced by children.
People with the condition will often experience periods of time where their symptoms flare up or worsen, followed by periods of time where their symptoms will improve or clear up.
Symptoms in infants under 2 years old
- Rashes commonly appear on the scalp and cheeks.
- Rashes usually bubble up before leaking fluid.
- Rashes can cause extreme itchiness. This may interfere with sleeping. Continuous rubbing and scratching can lead to skin infections.
Symptoms in children aged 2 years until puberty
- Rashes commonly appear behind the creases of elbows or knees.
- They are also common on the neck, wrists, ankles, and the crease between buttock and legs.
Over time, the following symptoms can occur:
- Rashes can become bumpy.
- Rashes can lighten or darken in color.
- Rashes can thicken in a process known as lichenification. The rashes can then develop knots and a permanent itch.
Symptoms in adults
- Rashes commonly appear in creases of the elbows or knees or the nape of the neck.
- Rashes cover much of the body.
- Rashes can be especially prominent on the neck, face, and around the eyes.
- Rashes can cause very dry skin.
- Rashes can be permanently itchy.
- Rashes in adults can be more scaly than those occurring in children.
- Rashes can lead to skin infections.
Adults who developed atopic dermatitis as a child but no longer experience the condition may still have dry or easily-irritated skin, hand eczema, and eye problems.
The appearance of skin affected by atopic dermatitis will depend on how much a person scratches and whether the skin is infected. Scratching and rubbing further irritate the skin, increase inflammation, and make itchiness worse.
Share on PinterestRegularly moisturizing the skin can help treat eczema.
There is no cure for eczema. Treatment for the condition aims to heal the affected skin and prevent flare-ups of symptoms. Doctors will suggest a plan of treatment an individual’s age, symptoms, and current state of health.
For some people, eczema goes away over time. For others, it remains a lifelong condition.
There are numerous things that people with eczema can do to support skin health and alleviate symptoms, such as:
- taking lukewarm baths
- applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing to “lock in” moisture
- moisturizing every day
- wearing cotton and soft fabrics, and avoiding rough, scratchy fibers and tight-fitting clothing
- using a mild soap or a non-soap cleanser when washing
- air drying or gently patting skin dry with a towel, rather than rubbing the skin dry after bathing
- where possible, avoiding rapid changes of temperature and activities that make you sweat
- learning and avoiding individual eczema triggers
- using a humidifier in dry or cold weather
- keeping fingernails short to prevent scratching from breaking the skin
There are several medications that doctors can prescribe to treat the symptoms of eczema, including:
- Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments: These are a type of anti-inflammatory medication and should relieve the main symptoms of eczema, such as skin inflammation and itchiness. They are applied directly to the skin. If you want to buy topical corticosteroid creams and ointments, then there is an excellent selection online with thousands of customer reviews.
- Systemic corticosteroids: If topical treatments are not effective, systemic corticosteroids can be prescribed. These are either injected or taken by mouth, and they are only used for short periods of time.
- Antibiotics: These are prescribed if eczema occurs alongside a bacterial skin infection.
- Antiviral and antifungal medications: These can treat fungal and viral infections that occur.
- Antihistamines: These reduce the risk of nighttime scratching as they can cause drowsiness.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors: This is a type of drug that suppresses the activities of the immune system. It decreases inflammation and helps prevent flare-ups.
- Barrier repair moisturizers: These reduce water loss and work to repair the skin.
- Phototherapy: This involves exposure to ultraviolet A or B waves, alone or combined. The skin will be monitored carefully. This method is normally used to treat moderate dermatitis.
Even though the condition itself is not yet curable, there should be a particular treatment plan to suit each person with different symptoms. Even after an area of skin has healed, it is important to keep looking after it, as it may easily become irritated again.
Share on PinterestPollen is one of the many potential triggers of eczema.
The specific cause of eczema remains unknown, but it is believed to develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Eczema is not contagious.
Children are more ly to develop eczema if a parent has had the condition or another atopic disease.
If both parents have an atopic disease, the risk is even greater.
Environmental factors are also known to bring out the symptoms of eczema, such as:
- Irritants: These include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats, or vegetables.
- Allergens: Dust mites, pets, pollens, mold, and dandruff can lead to eczema.
- Microbes: These include bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.
- Hot and cold temperatures: Very hot or cold weather, high and low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can bring out eczema.
- Foods: Dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat can cause eczema flare-ups.
- Stress: This is not a direct cause of eczema but can make symptoms worse.
- Hormones: Women can experience increased eczema symptoms at times when their hormone levels are changing, for example during pregnancy and at certain points in the menstrual cycle.
There are many different types of eczema. While this article has focused mainly on atopic dermatitis, other types include:
- Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a skin reaction following contact with a substance or allergen that the immune system recognizes as foreign.
- Dyshidrotic eczema: This is an irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. It is characterized by blisters.
- Neurodermatitis: This forms scaly patches of skin on the head, forearms, wrists, and lower legs. It is caused by a localized itch, such as an insect bite.
- Nummular eczema: These show as circular patches of irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly, and itchy.
- Stasis dermatitis: This is a skin irritation of the lower leg usually related to circulatory problems.
- Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema
12 best natural remedies for eczema
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Home remedies and natural treatments can soothe the dry, itching skin that comes with eczema.
People can use creams, natural products, and dietary and lifestyle changes to manage or prevent eczema flares, especially in the winter, when symptoms tend to be at their worst.
Natural substances, such as aloe vera gel and coconut oil, can moisturize dry, broken skin. They can also combat inflammation and harmful bacteria to reduce swelling and prevent infection.
Natural remedies cannot cure eczema, but they can help manage the symptoms and prevent flares. This article looks at the best natural remedies for eczema.
Share on PinterestA person can use aloe vera gel directly from the plant.
Aloe vera gel is derived from the leaves of the aloe plant. People have used aloe vera gel for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments. One common use is to soothe eczema.
A systematic review from 2015 looked at the effects of aloe vera on human health. The researchers reported that the gel has the following types of properties:
- immune system-boosting
The antibacterial and antimicrobial effects can prevent skin infections, which are more ly to occur when a person has dry, cracked skin. Aloe’s wound-healing properties may soothe broken skin and promote healing.
How to use it
People can buy aloe vera gel in health stores or online, or they can purchase an aloe vera plant and use the gel directly from its leaves.
Choose aloe gel products with few ingredients — others can contain preservatives, alcohol, fragrances, and colors, all of which can irritate sensitive skin. Alcohol and other drying ingredients could make eczema worse.
Start with a small amount of gel to check for skin sensitivity. Sometimes aloe vera can cause burning or stinging. Generally, however, it is safe and effective for adults and children.
Learn more about using aloe vera gel to treat eczema here.
Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for many conditions, including skin disorders.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) report that apple cider vinegar may help with the condition. However, they recommend using caution, as the vinegar’s acids can damage soft tissue.
No research has confirmed that apple cider vinegar reduces eczema symptoms, but there are several reasons why it could help:
Balancing the skin’s acidity levels
Vinegar is highly acidic. The skin is naturally acidic, but people with eczema may have less acidic skin than others. This can weaken the skin’s defenses.
Applying diluted apple cider vinegar could help balance the skin’s acidity levels, but vinegar can cause burns if it is not diluted.
In contrast, many soaps, detergents, and cleansers are alkaline. They can disrupt the acidity of the skin, which can leave the skin vulnerable to damage. This may explain why washing with certain soaps can cause eczema flares.
Studies have found that apple cider vinegar may fight bacteria, including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Using apple cider vinegar on the skin could help keep broken skin from becoming infected.
How to use it
Always dilute apple cider vinegar before applying it to the skin. Undiluted vinegar can cause chemical burns or other injuries.
People can use the vinegar in wet wraps or baths, and it is available in most supermarkets and health stores.
To use apple cider vinegar in a wet wrap:
- Mix 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar.
- Apply the solution to cotton or gauze.
- Cover the dressing in clean cotton fabric.
- Leave it on the area for 3 hours.
To try an apple cider vinegar bath soak:
- Add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath.
- Soak for 15–20 minutes.
- Rinse the body thoroughly.
- Moisturize within several minutes of leaving the bath.
Learn more about using apple cider vinegar for eczema here.
Although it may sound dangerous, research indicates that bleach in the bath can improve eczema symptoms due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Bleach can kill the bacteria on the surface of the skin, including S. aureus, which causes staph infections. This may restore the microbiome of the skin’s surface.
Conclusions of a 2015 review indicate that bleach baths could reduce the need for topical corticosteroid or antibiotic treatments. However, other research found no benefits of bleach baths, compared to regular baths.
How to use it
To make a bleach bath for eczema, use regular-strength (6 percent) plain bleach and try the following:
- Add half a cup of bleach to a full bathtub of water or 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water.
- Pour in the bleach while the bath is filling.
- Soak for 5–10 minutes.
- Rinse the body thoroughly with warm water.
- Gently pat the skin dry.
Use lukewarm water to prevent the skin from drying out, and moisturize immediately after drying.
If a person experiences any discomfort, irritation, or redness, they should stop using bleach in the bath. People with asthma or breathing problems should refrain from taking bleach baths, due to the strong fumes.
Learn more about bleach baths for eczema here.
Colloidal oatmeal, also known as Avena sativa, is made from oats that have been ground and boiled to extract their skin-healing properties.
A 2015 study reports that colloidal oatmeal lotion had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, resulting in improved:
- skin dryness
- itch intensity
According to the results of a randomized controlled trial, a colloidal oatmeal moisturizer worked better than a control.
How to use it
Add powdered colloidal oatmeal to a warm bath and soak.
Choose a colloidal oatmeal product that has oats as the only ingredient and avoid those with fragrances or additives. People can buy pure colloidal oatmeal from health stores or online.
Lotions and creams that contain colloidal oatmeal are also available for purchase online.
Colloidal oatmeal is generally safe for all ages, but people who are allergic to oats should avoid it. Individuals who are allergic to gluten should use caution, as oats are often processed with wheat.
Share on PinterestBathing provides the skin with essential moisture.
Bathing is an important part of eczema treatment. When a person has a skin condition such as eczema, their skin needs extra moisture because the outer layer is not functioning as it should.
For some, washing often can dry out the skin and make eczema worse. This can occur when:
- using water that is too hot or cold
- using the wrong soap
- not moisturizing afterward
Avoid bathing too frequently. Most babies and children need bathing once or twice a week.
NEA recommend that adults:
- bathe or shower at least once a day
- use lukewarm water
- limit bathing to 10–15 minutes
- avoid scrubbing the skin
- use gentle cleansers instead of soaps
- try different types of medicinal baths, such as those with baking soda, vinegar, or oatmeal
A long, hot shower can remove natural oils and moisture from the skin. Take shorter showers and keep the water at a warm, not hot, temperature.
After bathing, moisturize within 3 minutes of getting out. Gently pat the skin dry with a towel and apply an oil-based moisturizer before the skin has fully dried. This can help seal in water from the shower or bath before it evaporates.
After washing and drying the hands, apply moisturizer to help prevent eczema flares on them.
Coconut oil contains healthful fatty acids that can add moisture to the skin, which can help people with dry skin and eczema.
Also, virgin coconut oil may protect the skin by helping combat inflammation and by improving the health of the skin barrier.
A randomized clinical trial looked at the effects of applying virgin coconut oil to the skin in children. The results show that using the oil for 8 weeks improved the symptoms of eczema better than mineral oil.
How to use it
Apply cold-pressed virgin coconut oil directly to the skin after bathing and up to several times a day. Use it before bed to keep the skin moisturized overnight.
Extra-virgin coconut oil is generally solid at room temperature, but the warmth of a person’s body turns it to liquid. The oil is sold in health stores and online.
People who are allergic to coconuts should not use coconut oil.
Learn more about using coconut oil for eczema here.
Honey is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, and people have used it to heal wounds for centuries.
Conclusions of a review confirm that honey can help heal wounds and boost immune system function, which means that it can help the body fight off infections.
Another review states that honey is useful for treating a variety of skin ailments, including burns and wounds, and that it has antibacterial capability.
Applied directly to eczema, honey could help prevent infections while moisturizing the skin and speeding healing.
How to use it
Try dabbing a little honey onto the area. Manuka honey products designed for wound care and skin application are also available in many drug stores and online.
Manufacturers derive tea tree oil from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. People often use this oil to help with skin problems, including eczema.
A 2013 review identifies anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and wound-healing properties in the oil. It may help relieve skin dryness and itching and help prevent infections.
How to use it
Always dilute essential oils before using them on the skin. Try mixing tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil, then applying the solution. Some products include tea tree oil in a diluted form.
People can find the oil in health stores or online.
Learn more about using tea tree oil for eczema here.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition, which means that it causes inflamed, red, sore skin.
Certain foods can cause or reduce inflammation in the body, and making a few key dietary changes could help diminish eczema flares.
Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
- leafy greens
- beans and lentils
- colorful fruits
- turmeric and cinnamon
Common inflammatory foods include dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat. Try eliminating some of these from the diet and keep a food diary to help identify which foods may be problematic.
Learn more about diet tips for eczema here.
Many body washes and cleansers contain detergents, which help provide a soapy lather. Detergents and other lathering agents can dry out the skin, especially in people with eczema.
Bar soaps can also be harsh on the skin because of their alkalinity.
Try using a gentle, no-lather, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid products with rough particles for scrubbing or exfoliating, as these can further irritate the skin.
Many people with eczema also find that switching to a more gentle, fragrance- or color-free laundry detergent can help improve symptoms.
Try skipping fabric softener, which lingers on clothes and often contains fragrances and chemicals that can cause skin irritation.
Sitting next to a fireplace or near a furnace may feel good, but it can make eczema symptoms worse. The hot, dry air can dehydrate the skin and aggravate the itchiness of eczema.
Use a humidifier during the dry winter months and avoid getting too close to heaters and fireplaces.
Many home remedies are suitable for babies and children, but always speak to a doctor before using them on kids of any age.
The following home remedies may help:
- Avoid dressing a baby or child too warmly. Sweating can aggravate eczema or cause heat rash, which makes itching worse.
- Use mittens to prevent infants from scratching their skin.
- Apply a gentle moisturizer frequently to the affected areas, taking care not to get it in the eyes or nose.
- Do not cover a baby’s face with a scarf. Infant car seat covers can help shield a baby from cold outside air. Check often to ensure that the baby is getting enough airflow.
- Ask a doctor before trying apple cider vinegar or bleach in the bath of a baby or child.
- Colloidal oatmeal baths are generally safe for children, but keep the bath water their eyes.
- Avoid bathing them too frequently. Most babies and children only need bathing once or twice a week unless they are visibly soiled. Bathing less frequently may help prevent dry skin.
- Use fragrance- and alcohol-free baby wipes. Many wipes contain irritating ingredients. Look for those without fragrance or alcohol and those that contain soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera. “Sensitive skin” wipes may be useful.
- Use baby shampoos intended for children with eczema. Many eczema washes can sting the eyes, so look for eczema washes that are “tear-free” and carefully avoid the child’s eyes.
There is no cure for eczema, but people can often manage their symptoms with home remedies, including natural gels and oils, medicated baths, and dietary changes.
If eczema is severe or does not respond to home treatments, it may be a good idea to see a doctor. Do so right away if a child or baby develops a new rash.
A doctor may prescribe steroid creams or other prescription medicines to treat the inflammation.
Eczema: What’s the Best Treatment for You?
Eczema can be a frustrating skin condition, whether you get it a few times a year or deal with it every day. It's important to work closely with your doctor to make a plan that will help you control the itch and rash.
Eczema treatment has four main goals:
- Control the itch.
- Heal the skin.
- Prevent flares.
- Prevent infections.
The right treatment for you depends on your age, medical history, how bad your symptoms are, and other things. You’ll probably need to use a mix of remedies to get the best results. And there are things you should do on your own to keep your skin healthy and clear.
Here's your complete guide to eczema treatments.
Eczema meds can relieve your symptoms and help the skin heal when you take them as directed. The treatments may not have the same effects on everyone, though. So you and your doctor may need to try a few different options to see what works best for you. Treatment regimens may need to be changed occasionally when medications stop working as well as they once did.
Corticosteroid creams, solutions, gels, foams, and ointments. These treatments made with hydrocortisone steroids can quickly relieve itching and reduce inflammation. They come in different strengths, from mild over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to stronger prescription medicines.
OTC hydrocortisone is often the first thing doctors recommend to treat mild eczema. You may need different strengths of these steroids depending on where and how bad your rash is. For example, a doctor may prescribe a more potent one for thick, scaly skin. Side effects from these meds, such as thinning skin and stretch marks, are rare when you use them as directed.
NSAID ointment. There is now a new prescription non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory called crisaborole (Eucrisa) which can be used to treat mild to moderate forms of eczema. A twice a day application for patients 2 years old and older has been effective in reducing inflammation and helping the skin return to a normal appearance.
Barrier repair moisturizers. You can get these over the counter and by prescription. They help lock water into your skin, repair damage, and ease dryness, redness, and itching. Some products may have irritating fragrances or other ingredients, so ask your doctor or pharmacist which ones you should try or avoid.
Pimecrolimus and tacrolimus, medicines you rub on your skin, treat moderate-to-severe eczema for some people. They ease inflammation, but they aren't steroids. They may increase the risk of skin cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so the FDA issued a special warning for them. Talk to your doctor about these risks before you take the drugs.
Corticosteroid pills, liquids, or shots. These powerful drugs help relieve symptoms of severe or hard-to-treat eczema. Because of the risk for side effects such as skin damage and bone loss, you should take them only for a short time.
Drugs that turn down your immune system, including cyclosporine, methotrexate, and mycophenolate mofetil. They help keep your body's defenses from overreacting. You can take them as pills, liquids, or as a shot.
They can help people with moderate-to-severe eczema when other treatments haven’t worked. Serious side effects include high blood pressure and kidney problems.
You should take these medicines only for a short time to limit the risk for these problems.
Antibiotics. Scratching damages your skin, which allows bacteria to get under it and cause an infection. These medicines treat bacterial skin infections.
Antihistamines. When you take them at night, these drugs relieve itching and can help you sleep.
Ultraviolet (UV) light can help treat moderate-to-severe eczema. UV rays help keep the immune system from overreacting. But too much of it can age your skin and raise your risk for skin cancer. So doctors use the lowest possible dose and watch your skin carefully when you get this treatment.
There are two types of phototherapy:
UV light therapy. In a dermatologist’s office, your skin gets exposed to UVA rays, UVB rays, or a mix of both. Sometimes you’ll rub coal tar on your skin at the same time. You’ll have sessions two to five times a week, depending on the type of treatment you get.
PUVA therapy. With this type, you take psoralen, a prescription medication that makes the skin more sensitive to UVA light. It’s for people who haven’t gotten results from UV therapy alone.
When you keep your skin healthy, you can prevent dryness, itching, redness, and maybe lessen the need for medication. Plus, it feels good to pamper yourself. Try these tips:
Bathe only in warm water. Hot water dries out skin. Wash with a gentle cleanser instead of soap. Don't use body scrubbers or washcloths, which can be irritating. Pat dry with a soft towel instead of rubbing, and be sure to leave your skin damp.
Apply moisturizers daily. Do it right after you bathe or wash your hands. Choose fragrance-free moisturizers that won't irritate you. Try using a thicker skin cream or ointment that has more oil at night, and wear cotton gloves or socks to lock in moisture. Gloves can also keep you from scratching in your sleep.
Avoid too much bathing and hand washing. It will dry out your skin. Steer clear of alcohol-based hand cleaners, too.
Limit your contact with skin irritants. Household cleaners, laundry detergents, perfumed soaps, bubble baths, cosmetics, and many other things can make eczema worse. Learn what irritates your skin so you can avoid it.
Choose cotton clothes that fit comfortably. Wool and synthetic fibers can be irritating. Also, be sure to wash new clothes before you wear them for the first time. Use fragrance-free laundry soap, and rinse your laundry thoroughly.
Avoid getting overheated. When you’re hot and sweaty, it can trigger itching and scratching. After a workout, rinse off right away in a warm shower.
Know your triggers. Many people with eczema react to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold.
Ease stress. It can be hard to find time to relax, but lowering your stress level will help you avoid symptom flare-ups.
WebMD Medical Reference
Eczema Management and Treatment
Treatment of eczema depends on the symptoms (for example, dry skin is treated differently than oozing blisters) and the factors that trigger or worsen symptoms. No one treatment is best for all people. The goal of treatment is to reduce itching and discomfort and to prevent infection and additional flare-ups.
Treatment options include:
- Prevention: Preventing flare-ups is the best way to manage eczema. For that reason, it is important to try to identify and avoid symptom triggers, such as certain detergents or food allergens, and to moisturize the skin.
- Skin care: Keeping your skin moist is important, because itching increases when the skin is dry. Use a moisturizing cream or ointment. Lotions are less effective. It is important to keep skin moisturized by applying creams or ointments several times a day — including after bathing/showering while skin is still damp — to keep your skin moist. Use mild soaps and products that are free of perfumes, dyes, and alcohol. Look for products that are “fragrance-free,” “hypoallergenic,” and “for sensitive skin.” New products containing “ceramide” actually replace some of the “glue” that is missing in the skin of eczema patients and are the most effective moisturizers.
- Medications: Over-the-counter creams and ointments containing the steroid cortisone — such as hydrocortisone (Cortisone 10®) and hydrocortisone acetate (Cort-Aid®) — may be used to help control the itching, swelling, and redness associated with eczema. Stronger, prescription-strength steroid creams are also available. Steroid pills and shots may be used in the short term to get control of severe eczema, but long-term use of these is not recommended because of the possible side effects, which include high blood pressure, weight gain, and thinning of the skin.
Newer medications, called topical immunomodulators (TIMs), are showing progress in treating patients with moderate to severe eczema, particularly those patients who do not respond to traditional treatment.
TIMs — such as tacrolimus (Protopic®) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) — work by modulating (changing) the body's immune response to allergens. TIMs also have fewer side effects than steroids.
The most common side effect reported with tacrolimus is a temporary stinging or burning sensation that generally improves after a few days of use.
Other medications that might be used for patients with eczema include antibiotics if the skin becomes infected, and antihistamines to help control itching. Some patients with severe eczema may require oral immunomodulatory or immunosuppressant medications to control their skin disease.
- Phototherapy: The ultraviolet light waves found in sunlight have been shown to help certain skin disorders, including eczema. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light, usually ultraviolet B (UVB), from special lamps to treat people who have severe eczema.
What complications are associated with eczema?
- Scratching or rubbing itchy areas can break the skin, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infection.
- Scars can form when the skin is damaged from continued scratching.
- Very itchy eczema can disturb sleep.
- Some people with eczema avoid social activities because they are uncomfortable and/or self-conscious.
- In persons with darker skin, inflammation from eczema may leave dark marks that linger for months.
Can eczema be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for eczema. However, proper treatment and good skin care can often control or minimize symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/10/2017.
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How To Fight Eczema – 12 Dermatologist-Tested Products for Eczema
After spending a majority of my life haphazardly applying body lotion (or oil) as I pleased, I discovered a strange, itchy, scaly patch of skin on the right side of my shin.
“Must be an allergic reaction,” I said to myself as I brushed it off since I do test a gazillion things. But after a few weeks when the constant itching and irritation didn’t let up, I headed to my dermatologist….
I soon discovered I was suffering from eczema, a first in my life.
Apparently, I’m not alone either—more than three million people suffer from inflammation and red itchy skin because of a number of factors including weather, stress, and genetics. If you have rash- symptoms that appear on your arms, behind your knees, or on areas of skin exposed to varying environmental factors, you might have eczema (also known as dermatitis).
Those who suffer from the common skin condition know that it does take a bit of trial-and-error to find soothing, hydrating products that calm current (and prevent future) flare-ups.
To help expedite your journey, I spoke to three top derms to break down everything you ever wanted to know about eczema including what they recommend you should be using.
Seriously, don't let winter dryness get you down, I’m here to help!
What is eczema?
At its core, eczema is a common, non-contagious, dry skin condition which can lead to dry, scaly skin with some redness and itching, though in more severe cases the skin can crack, bleed, and/or crust.
“It’s a chronic inflammatory skin condition involving a disruption of the skin barrier and an unbalance of skin microbiome including the over-proliferation of the staphylococcus bacteria,” adds NYC-based board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Marnie Nussbaum.
What are the different types of eczema?
There are different types of dermatitis, including atopic eczema, allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, and asteatotic (due to very dry skin) eczema. When most people talk about eczema they usually are referring to atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. Atopic dermatitis is common and tends to run in families along with asthma, hay fever, sinus trouble, and dry skin.
What causes eczema?
Unfortunately, a combination of things ranging from allergens (dust mites, pets, pollens, mold, and dandruff), certain foods (dairy or soy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, as well as wheat), certain fabrics (particularly wool and polyester) and stress levels can increase flare-ups.
“We still don’t know exactly what causes eczema, but researchers believe that it’s brought on by a combination of genetics and environmental triggers,” adds Mustela’s consulting dermatologist, Dr. Latanya Benjamin.
Another important factor is that eczema is generally a hereditary condition. “Eczema is 40-50% more ly to occur in children if one parent has a history of the condition,” explains Benjamin. “This increases to 50-80% if both parents suffer with eczema.”
Does eczema get worse in different seasons?
According to board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon of Preston Dermatology, cold weather and dry air often go hand in hand. “Too much dry air can zap your skin of natural moisture. Dryness often leads to itching, which then leads to scratching and inflammation,” she explains.
On the other hand, hot weather can also irritate eczema. “Heavy perspiration can lead to itchy skin as well as prolonged exposure to water is another eczema-trigger. Water can cause dry skin, which can lead to persistent itching,” adds Dr. Solomon.
How can I reduce eczema scarring?
The best way to prevent eczema scarring is to effectively prevent and manage itching in the first place. “When the itch is control, patients do the most damage. Keeping the skin well moisturized and nails trimmed and smoothed go a long way to reduce the risk of eczema scarring,” warns Benjamin.
Nussbaum explains scarring is usually from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) or residual redness from inflammation which may hyper- or hypopigment. “The most important thing is to maintain a healthy skin barrier by using a gentle cleanser twice daily and moisturizer twice daily without any harsh ingredients,” she shares.
Other key ingredients including vitamin C, niacinamide and aloe vera can assist with evening our skin tone, minimizing inflammation, and boosting collagen production.
“Oatmeal baths for 30 minutes a day can also help remove dead skin cells, calm inflammation and restore hydration while reducing scarring,” shares Nussbaum.
“But, should the scarring be severe, we [dermatologists] can certainly use laser resurfacing or other types of lasers to lessen the redness and hyper-pigmentation.”
Do over-the-counter eczema options exist?
Yes, but remember, there is no “cure” for eczema now but there are treatments, and more are coming. “Depending on the type of eczema and severity, treatments include lifestyle changes, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, prescription topical, oral and injectable medications, phototherapy and biologic drugs can assist with symptoms.” explains Solomon.
However, it helps to start with soothing moisturizers, particularly those that contain ceramides, which are naturally occurring lipids (fats) in the skin, that help to maintain normal skin barrier function. More on that below.
What recommendations do you have for over-the-counter creams?
In general, one of the best things you can do for eczema is to find a great moisturizer. Lotions can be a bit drying, as they have a higher water content, so board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology, Dr. David Lortscher recommends picking a heavier cream with ceramides or petrolatum.
If your skin is particularly dry or if you're exposed to very cold dry air, you should begin using a thin layer of a heavier moisturizer in the morning to help protect your skin. Moisturizing is the key to improving skin barrier function, resolving symptoms much faster, and reducing relapse with continual treatment.
When should you seek medical attention?
If your skin isn’t responding to over-the-counter treatments, there are prescription topicals that your dermatologist can prescribe. Stronger prescription topical steroids are available for short-term use. Protopic (tacrolimus) 0.03% and 0.
1% ointment and Elidel (pimecrolimus) 1% cream are calcineurin inhibitors, meaning topical medications that work to inhibit the immune system to reduce inflammation and irritation. Dr.
Lortscher typically uses Protopic ointment and Elidel cream to wean patients off topical steroids.
Recently, the FDA approved new treatment options including Eucrisa (crisaborole) and Dupixent (dupilumab).
- Eucrisa is a topical, non-steroid treatment. Eucrisa works differently than Protopic and Elidel, targeting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase that helps the body deal with inflammation.
- Dupixent is an injection for individuals who have eczema resistant to topical treatments or who do not have access to topical treatment. Dupixent works by blocking factors that allow white blood cells to communicate inflammation.
Should I use different products for different areas?
Absolutely! According to Nussbaum depending where the eczema is located it should be treated differently. “For example, eyelids and sensitive skin areas underarms, inguinal folds and lips will be treated with a lighter strength corticosteroid than thicker skin the back or legs,” she explains.
“The scalp can experience a few different conditions which may look eczema, however could be a form of seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis or fungal infection.
Therefore always see a dermatologist to help diagnose the condition.
Depending on the condition, there are different shampoos, gels and creams containing ingredients such as coal tar, salicylic acid, corticosteroid or selenium sulfide can also effectively treat the scalp.”
Lastly, a special note about scrubs:
Although scrubs may be a seemingly obvious fix for sloughing off dead skin, avoid using scrubs on skin with active eczema. A scrub by definition (i.e.
, exfoliation by means of mechanical abrasion) would ly be really irritating for skin affected by eczema.
However, if the granules are soft (almost paste-), and if the base of the product is heavier and more ointment-, then water may be trapped in the skin (which is a good thing!), and the hydration may soothe the eczema.
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