Speaking of Health – Eczema

By Gilda Morales, ANP, DC

Eczema is a skin condition caused by inflammation of the skin, which causes it to become itchy, red, and dry, and even cracked and leathery. Eczema can appear on any part of the body.  Eczema is most commonly found in infants and while some may outgrow the disease, for many, it will become a chronic disease.

People with eczema have a higher risk of developing allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever.

          Almost always, the skin will itch before a rash appears in eczema.   The rash looks like patches of chronically itchy, dry, thickened skin, usually on the hands, neck, face, and legs, although it can occur anywhere. In children, the inner creases of the knees and elbows are often involved. If the rash is scratched, dry patches of skin and open sores with crusts may develop and may get infected.

Treatment begins with good skin care, which usually is enough if the eczema is mild, that might be all that is needed.  Use a mild soap or soap substitute that won’t dry the skin, followed by a good moisturizer in cream, lotion, or ointment form, smoothed on right after a shower or bath, as well as one other time each day.

If the eczema is severe, taking baths with a small amount of bleach added to the water kills bacteria that live on the skin of people with eczema.  People with eczema should avoid taking very long or very hot showers, which can dry out the skin. Stress management and regular exercise can also be useful in the treatment of eczema, as can a humidifier.

Medications that are commonly used to treat eczema include hydrocortisone, antihistamines, corticosteroids, and ultraviolet light therapy for severe cases.

There are also medications that work on the immune system, such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, or methotrexate if other treatments don’t help. There are also prescription creams that treat eczema by controlling inflammation and reducing the immune system reactions. Examples include pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic).

(Medscape, 2016)


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