Allergy / Eczema Treatments
Eczema is a condition in which patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, cracked, and rough. Some types can also cause blisters.
In most cases eczema symptoms are mild. The most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
- dry, scaly skin
- skin flushing
- open, crusted, or weeping sores
People with severe eczema may need more intensive treatment to relieve their symptoms. Continuous rubbing and scratching can also lead to skin infections.
The following atopic dermatitis symptoms are common in babies under the age of 2:
- rashes on the scalp and cheeks
- rashes that bubble up before leaking fluid
- rashes that can cause extreme itchiness, which may interfere with sleeping
he following atopic dermatitis symptoms are common in children age 2 and above:
- rashes that appear behind the creases of elbows or knees
- rashes that appear on the neck, wrists, ankles, and the crease between the buttocks and legs
- bumpy rashes
- rashes that can become lighter or darker
- skin thickening, also known as lichenification, which can then develop into a permanent itch
Most people with the condition develop it before the age of 5 years. An estimated 60% of children will no longer show symptoms by adolescence.
African American and Hispanic children may have more severe eczema than children who are white.
The following atopic dermatitis symptoms are common in adults:
- rashes that are more scaly than those occurring in children
- rashes that commonly appear in the creases of the elbows or knees or the nape of the neck
- rashes that cover much of the body
- very dry skin on the affected areas
- rashes that are permanently itchy
- skin infections
Adults who developed atopic dermatitis as children but no longer experience the condition may still have dry or easily irritated skin, hand eczema, and eczema on the eyelids.
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 can further irritate the skin, increase inflammation, and make the itching worse.
There is currently no cure for eczema. Treatment for the condition aims to heal the affected skin and prevent flares of symptoms.
Doctors will suggest a treatment plan based on an individual’s age, symptoms, and current state of health.
For some people, eczema goes away over time. For others, however, it is a lifelong condition.
The sections below will list some treatment options.
- Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments: These are anti-inflammatory medications and should relieve the main symptoms of eczema, such as inflammation and itchiness. People can apply them directly to the skin. Some people may benefit from prescription-strength medications.
- Oral medications: If topical treatments are not effective, a doctor may prescribe oral medications like systemic corticosteroids or immuno suppresants. These are available as injections or oral tablets. People should only use them for short periods of time. Also, it is important to note that the symptoms may worsen upon stopping these drugs if the person is not already taking another medication for the condition.
- Antibiotics: Doctors prescribe antibiotics if eczema occurs alongside a bacterial skin infection.
- Antihistamines: These can reduce the risk of nighttime scratching, as they tend to cause drowsiness.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors: This drug suppresses the activities of the immune system. It decreases inflammation and helps prevent flares.
- Barrier repair moisturizers: These reduce water loss and work to repair the skin.
- Phototherapy: This involves exposure to UVA or UVB waves. This method can treat moderate dermatitis. A doctor will monitor the skin closely throughout the treatment.
- Injected biologic drugs: These medications block proteins in the immune system to limit immune system response.
Some environmental factors may also bring out the symptoms of eczema. These include:
- Irritants: These include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables.
- Allergens: Dust mites, pets, pollens, and mold can all lead to eczema. This is known as allergic eczema.
- Microbes: These include bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.
- Hot and cold temperatures: Very hot and very 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 flares.
- Stress: This is not a direct cause of eczema, but it can make the symptoms worse.
- Hormones: Females may experience increased eczema symptoms when their hormone levels are changing, such as during pregnancy and at certain points in the menstrual cycle.
There are several types of eczema. Besides atopic dermatitis, other types inlude:
- Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a skin reaction that occurs following contact with a substance or allergen that the immune system recognizes as foreign.
- Dyshidrotic eczema: This refers to irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It is characterized by blisters.
- Neurodermatitis: This leads to scaly patches of skin on the head, forearms, wrists, and lower legs. It occurs due to a localized itch, such as from an insect bite.
- Discoid eczema: Also known as nummular eczema, this type presents as circular patches of irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly, and itchy.
- Stasis dermatitis: This refers to skin irritation of the lower leg. It is usually related to circulatory problems.