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Eczema

 

The itch that rashes.  Dry skin feels itchy, it gets scratched, and then a rash appears.  The more you scratch, the itchier it is. Symptoms of eczema may include: redness, swelling, itching, crusting, cracking, or bleeding of the skin. Eczema is not contagious but is common, affecting 9-30% of Americans. Eczema is increased in infants and young children, and while some people outgrow eczema, others experience symptoms their entire lives. There is no known cure for eczema, though proper treatment generally controls the disease for the majority of sufferers.

Causes:

We now know certain people do not make as many ceramides in the skin - ceramides are fats that protect our skin and prevent itch. Eczema is also linked to an overactive response in the body’s immune system to certain triggers. People with a history of other allergies or asthma are more likely to suffer from eczema.

Treatment:

Treatment for eczema aims to relieve and prevent itching, which can lead to scratching and then a rash. Applying moisturizer after bathing when skin is damp is essential. Moisturizers containing ceramides are great for everyone, but are very helpful for eczema. Other treatment options include:

  • Medication:

    For mild eczema, creams and ointments such as corticosteroids or tacrolimus are prescribed to reduce inflammation.  When the affected area becomes infected, antibiotics may be necessary. Anti-histamines, (anti-itch drugs), can also be effective in reducing the desire to itch. Sometimes we use systemic medications for severe forms of eczema.

  • Light Therapy:

    Light therapy consists of exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light. 

Prevention:

While eczema itself cannot be prevented, some strategies can prevent or less flares. Moisturize frequently with a ceramide-containing moisturizer and avoid things that can dry the skin, such as harsh soaps, scratchy clothing, sudden changes in temperature, and environmental triggers such as pollen, mold or dust. Wash and moisturize immediately after swimming.