Eczema, also known by the clinical name Atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition marked by itchiness and red rashes. It is common in young children and adults.
There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments that reduce the flare-ups and keep the skin moist so that the itching and onset of flare-ups are reduced The rashes can either come and go or set in on a chronic basis.
The symptoms of eczema vary slightly from person to person. The most common symptom is red, itchy, dry skin which can occur anywhere on the body, although the most common sites are the hands, feet, lower legs, writes, neck and chest. It can also occur on elbows and knees, on the face, and on the scalp.
The most prevalent secondary symptom is insomnia, as patients find it difficult to sleep when their skin feels dry and itchy. Secondary infections are also possible.
Patients should seek medical care as early as possible to gain control of the symptoms. The rash can also lead to skin infections, which should prompt a visit to see your doctor.
There are numerous possible causes although scientists have not discovered the primary factors. All of the following may have a contributing effect, however:
- Family history
- Food allergies
- Hay fever
- Overheating activities (sweating)
- Various soap brands
- Dust and pollen
Diagnosis involves a discussion of your family’s medical history, a review of environmental factors (food allergies, stress, and exposure to chemicals).
One of the key factors in treatment involves responding to the rash as soon as possible. As the rash begins to spread it becomes harder and harder to control or eliminate.
Various medications have been used to combat eczema. Topical ointments can help reduce the onset of eczema which thrives in dry-skin conditions. As such, ointments that provide moisture to the skin can help slow or eliminate a bout of eczema.
Doctors also prescribe corticosteroid creams to reduce itchiness and discomfort. A variety of creams (Protopic and Elidel) are designed to improve the response of your immune system to eczema. These creams are limited to persons over 2 years of age.
Antibiotics are also used if the patient develops an infection. And a recently approved treatment involves injections of a monoclonal antibody drug called Dupixent. Firm data on Dupixent has not been developed due to its shorter track record compared with other drugs.
There are a variety of lifestyle changes that can be effective. Keeping the skin moisturized is important and this can involve creams, drinking water, and avoiding hot showers, tuning them down to warm. A humidifier is also recommended.
Short-term light therapy could also be helpful, although long exposure to light therapy includes a raised risk for skin cancer. The risks here can affect your decision to pursue light therapy or use it to help children.
If you suspect you or your child has eczema, call Pacific Medical Care in San Diego at 619-333-8114. Let us put you back on the road to better health.