What is eczema?
Eczema, formally called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, inflamed patches of red scaly skin. As many as 30 million Americans suffer from eczema, according to the National Eczema Association. Because this condition is so itchy, patients often scratch their skin continually, causing lesions that can become crusty and ooze. Eczema usually begins in early childhood and flares up periodically then subsides.
What causes eczema?
The cause of eczema is not known, but it is thought to have a genetic component, as the condition often runs in families. Eczema is most likely the result of various factors, including: dryness, a reduction in the skin’s barrier that locks in moisture, immune system dysfunction, bacteria on the skin’s surface, and environmental conditions.
How is eczema treated?
While there is no cure for eczema, the doctor’s at MDCS can help alleviate symptoms and control flare-ups. Treatment options include:
- Corticosteroid cream or ointments to control itching and inflammation.
- Creams, called calcineurin inhibitors, that help repair the skin.
- Oral antibiotics, prescribed if a bacterial skin infection is present, due to open sores or cracked skin, caused by scratching.
- Oral anti-itch medication.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, either taken orally or injected.
- Light therapy, which involves exposure to controlled amounts of artificial ultraviolet light.
How can I manage or prevent symptoms?
There are a number of preventative steps that patients can take to minimize flare-ups. These include:
- Moisturizing daily
- Wearing cotton or soft fabrics, while avoiding rough, scratchy ones, as well as, tight-fitting clothes.
- Taking lukewarm, not hot, baths and showers, with mild soap or non-soap cleansing products
- Bathing in oatmeal for 10-15 minutes, at least once a day.
- Bathing in a diluted bleach bath. Ask your doctor for specific instructions. Typically, a few tablespoons of unscented bleach in a full tub of lukewarm water is recommended.
- Learn your specific triggers – which can range from foods to pet dander - and avoid them.
- Utilize a humidifier when weather is dry or cold.
- Trim fingernails short to prevent scratching and breaking the skin.
*Individual Results May Vary
WHAT IS ECZEMA?
Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis – is an inflammation of the skin that leads to very itchy red/brownish patches that resemble the look of a common rash. If not managed properly or if left untreated, the inflamed patches of eczema can become crusty, bumpy, ooze, crack and/or thicken. The first outbreak normally appears prior to the age of 5, but the condition can persist into adulthood. There have been reports of a staph infection accompanying an eczema rash with individuals with severe eczema.
REDUCE SKIN IRRITATION
- Moisturize Skin Often: A key first step to take to reduce eczema irritation is to moisturize affected skin. Recent studies have shown that individuals who suffer from eczema tend to have gaps between cells in their skin which tend to allow allergens in. The allergens will irritate the skin. Using an eczema therapy moisturizer such as Aveeno Eczema Therapy can fill the gaps and make it harder for allergens to get in.
- Take Oatmeal: A short bath in oatmeal can help ease itch and irritation. You can use organic oatmeal or buy a pre-packaged colloidal oatmeal at the local drug store. It is recommended you soak in the oatmeal solution for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Be sure to gently pat yourself dry after your bath with a soft towel. Apply eczema-friendly lotion immediately after your bath. Preferably while the skin is still damp.
- Cool the Itch Down: You can soothe itch by applying a cold compress or an ice-pack. Place the cold compress or ice pack on to irritated or itch skin and hold it there for a few minutes or as needed.
- Wear Comfortable Fabrics: The best fabric to wear to relieve eczema itch would be cotton and cotton blends. Avoid wearing clothes made of coarse materials such as wool and synthetics which tend to irritate skin.
- Short Fingernails: While it would be ideal to avoid scratching all together, the next best option will be to maintain short nails. It is wise to keep nails trimmed short to avoid damaging your skin when giving into an itch’s temptation.
MAINTENANCE & DAILY SKIN CARE
To maintain skin affected by eczema, take at least one shower per day with warm water for approximately 10-15 minutes. Wash with a gentle cleansing bar or wash formulated for sensitive skin. Pat away any excess water and immediately apply moisturizer to damp skin. The best moisturizers to use are fragrance-free, eczema-friendly or a prescribed medicated topical. Applying Vaseline may also help itch, but since it contains no water, it is best to use it only after bathing. Be sure to liberally use moisturizers throughout the day. Avoid skin irritants and proven allergens.
MILD TO MODERATE ECZEMA, DRY SKIN, ATOPIC DERMATITIS
- Regularly bathe with oatmeal as explained as above for about 10-15 minutes, once (possibly twice) a day.
- Be sure to use mild, fragrance-free cleansers. Speak to your doctor about what cleansers best suit your specific situation.
- Regularly use eczema-friendly, fragrance-free moisturizers or a prescribed medicated topical.
- At times, applying a low potency topical corticosteroid to affected areas twice daily especially after baths can soothe eczema itch.
- Be sure to pay close attention to any products that seem to irritate the skin or make your condition worse.
MODERATE TO SEVERE ECZEMA, DRY SKIN
- Diluted Bleach Bath: Experts agree that taking a diluted bleach bath successfully treat eczema. Since bleach is antibacterial, it helps decrease the bacteria that sometimes aggravate. Depending on your doctor’s instructions, use between a few tablespoons and a half-cup of regular unscented Clorox bleach with approx. 40 gallons (typically a full tub) of lukewarm water. Make sure to read the bottle to check the concentration (which should be about 6%. Note that some labeling might refer to bleach by its scientific name – sodium hypochlorite.) Before stepping foot into the bath solution, ensure the bleach and water are thoroughly mixed. Soak in bath solution for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Pat dry with a soft towel and apply moisturizer as explained above.
- Use sensitive, fragrance-free cleansers or consider possibly using an antibacterial cleanser. Speak to your doctor about what cleansers are best suited for your condition.
- Moisturize while skin is still damp after bath twice daily. (Use eczema-friendly, fragrance-free, or prescribed medicated topical)
STEP DOWN TO MODERATE PLAN ABOVE AS THE SKIN HEALS