What is Eczema?
Eczema is a general term encompassing various inflamed skin conditions. It is commonly called Atopic Dermatitis and about 10-20% of the world suffers from it. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by a chronic, relapsing, dry, itchy rash. It is common during childhood, and fortunately it typically improves with age but not always.
What causes Eczema?
The cause is unknown, but it appears to be an abnormal response of the body’s immune system. In people with eczema, the inflammatory response to irritants is exaggerated causing itching and scratching. It tends occur in people with a family history of allergies. Those who are genetically predisposed and then are exposed to triggers may develop eczema. Many triggers have been identified and vary from person to person such as harsh soaps, detergents, exposure to wool., low humidity, sweat, sudden changes in temperature, contact from juices from fresh fruit and meats, dust mites, animal dander or saliva, and upper respiratory infections. Even stress can aggravate an existing flare-up.
What does the rash look like?
It is most often characterized by dry, red, itchy patches. The skin may become thickened and darker from chronic scratching. Eczema can occur on most parts of the body. In infants it can start on the cheeks , scalp, neck, or cover a large part of the body,. With increasing age, the rash may be limited to the bend of the elbows, knees, and on the back of the hands and feet. Atopic dermatitis may become infected by bacteria, yeast, or viruses. Bacterial infection is the most common. If this occurs, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to control the infection.
How can Eczema be prevented?
The severity and frequency of flare-ups can be reduced by moisturizing frequently, avoiding sudden changes in temperature or humidity, sweating or overheating, harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents. Also reducing stress and avoiding environmental factors that trigger allergies such as pollens, mold, mites, and animal dander may help.
What medical treatments are available for Eczema?
Treatment is evidence and patient preference based and must be tailored by the physician to each individual. Some treatment options include: moisture and emollients, topical steroids and immunomodulators (TIMS), as well as oral steroids and antihistamines. In more resistant cases, topical and oral antibiotics, UV light therapy, cyclosporine, or methotrexate. Many of these treatment options have potential side effects /adverse effects or require special monitoring and should be discussed with your physician.