Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is characterized by a red itchy rash that is scaly and is oozing in some cases. The condition can appear on the arms and legs, cheeks, forehead, and in body parts such as knees and elbows where there are creases. In some cases, skin will have a leathery feel and even crack or blister. Some people also experience a thickening of the skin, red patches and even a slight color change when they have eczema.
1. Skin Conditions
This refers to the skin’s inflammation, while atopic means an allergic, and usually genetic or inherited, tendency. The condition is common for infants, although eczema is typically outgrown. The child’s condition could be chronic, or recur with regularity, if the problem persists beyond the second birthday, when eczema usually disappears. Eczema can worsen during winter, when dryness pervades the house, and summer, when temperatures could rise to extremes.
The rashes are easy to eliminate, although they return sometimes even with proper treatment. To prevent eczema, bubble baths, exposure to extreme heat, strong soaps and other triggers must be avoided. In cases where these triggers are sometimes hard to avoid or identify, moisturizers may be the most important weapon one can use to prevent any flare-up of the condition. Since atopic dermatitis can accompany dry skin, individuals with this skin type will benefit from taking a daily bath – of about 5-10 minutes – with lukewarm water and using only a mild soap with moisturizing properties. This helps locks the moisture into the skin, limiting the likelihood of eczema development. Some people benefit from having topical medications as the first layer of treatment, with moisturizers or lubricants applied on top as the second layer, following a bath. This two-pronged approach should be enough to maintain healthy and hydrated skin.
3. Ointments & Creams
Greasy ointments are one of several moisturizers available in the market. Aquaphor and Vaseline are probably the more popular choices, although consumers should also consider other brands and similar products to determine which one works best for their skin. For more extreme eczema break-outs, individuals may need to turn to topical steroids and Protopic and other non-steroidal treatments. Hydrocortisone creams are among the very mild over-the-counter topical steroids one can use, even on facial eczema. Drug stores will already ask for a prescription for Dermatop, 0.1% Triamcinolone, Cutivate, Elocon and other more potent topicals. These stronger products are generally not advisable for children, as they could have adverse effects.
Protopic, Elidel and other non-steroidal medications, or immunodulators, are preferred for children with eczema. These milder topicals can be used twice daily, and even on the face and other more sensitive areas. However, steroid-free medications take a longer time before producing results compared to topical steroids. Some doctors recommend antihistamines as part of eczema treatment. Atarax, Benadryl and other antihistamines with a sedative effect are particularly effective in cases when itching is already hampering sleep. Other solutions that can also help are cold compresses, wet dressings, ultraviolet light therapy, oral steroids and cylcosporin and other immunosuppressive drugs.
5. Other Factors
Some individuals may find that the condition is common within the family. One who is genetically disposed to having sensitive skin could easily trigger bouts of eczema due to an allergy, stress or other specific environmental factor. Asthma, allergic rhinitis and other similar disorders tend to accompany eczema in these individuals. When this happens, the allergen or source of the allergy must be identified first and properly addressed. These sources could include shrimp and other seafood, strawberries, nuts, cow’s milk, eggs and other types of food. Pollen, dust mites and other airborne agents are also possible triggers. Eczema can also be driven by irritation to specific substances such as detergents, products containing chlorine, earrings and jewelry containing silver or nickel, woolen fabrics, synthetic materials, latex rubber, and formaldehyde and similar chemicals.
6. Treatment Tips
Eczema may not require continuous treatment, as most people generally outgrow the condition as they become older. However, antibiotics may have to be used when infections set in and hamper treatment of the flares. A dermatologist, allergologist or other specialist should be consulted after reasonable time and treatment fails to eliminate eczema or improve skin condition. Consultation should be immediate particularly if the affected individual develops fluid- or pus-filled blisters, which are symptomatic of eczema herpeticum – a rare complication attributed to the herpes simplex virus.