Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a condition that affects from 10 to 20 percent of people around the world. 65 percent of the time, eczema will appear before the age of one, with a total of 90 percent of cases identified by the age of five. This condition, which is often seen on the hands, tends to recur time and time again, remaining in some patients throughout their entire lives. Due to its chronic nature, and the fact that there are potentially several causes, it is important to understand the details of this skin condition.
Eczema is not necessarily a rash. Rather than presenting as red, irritated skin, eczema will typically first develop as an intense itch. As the itch is scratched, redness and irritation will occur. In addition to redness, skin may also experience cracking, crusting, swelling, changes in pigment, thickening, and weeping or oozing. The itch of eczema may occur in only small areas on the face, legs, or arms, or may be more widespread.
Because there are several other conditions that may present in a similar fashion to eczema, a dermatologic evaluation and diagnosis is especially important when symptoms appear. Eczema is not a condition for which there is a complete cure. When eczema is diagnosed, we put a plan in place to manage the condition. This plan may include lifestyle changes as well as specific dermatologic treatment.
Dermatologic care for eczema
Several medications exist for the treatment of existing eczema flare-ups. Some medications may control itching while others are prescribed to suppress the body’s inflammatory response. One of the ways itching may be controlled is with an antihistamine medication. To suppress the inflammatory response, a topical steroid cream may be used. Topical steroids may also reduce the intensity of itching.
Once an existing flare-up is under control, management may be achieved with the use of repair creams and/or immunomodulators.
Improvement through lifestyle modification
Many of the symptoms of eczema can be minimized with specific lifestyle habits, such as:
- Use liquid soap and hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion daily
- Use natural products that contain no dyes or perfumes. This includes laundry detergents and personal care products
- Avoid fabrics that cause itching, such as wool
- Take warm, not hot, baths and showers, taking care to moisturize the skin well after bathing
- Identify triggers such as chemical allergens and avoid them
- Identify food triggers and avoid them
- Avoid extreme heat or cold, such as the use of a sauna, since flare ups may occur in excessive temperatures on either end of the spectrum
Our team is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of skin conditions. We provide outstanding care to individuals of all ages. Contact our office to schedule your visit with Dr. Koreen.