Those embarrassing patches of rough, reddened, intensely itchy skin can keep eczema sufferers from enjoying their lives, and for a parent, it’s difficult to watch your child go through it. Also, sometimes eczema is associated with some other conditions and needs a complete workup by your dermatologist. It also can be aggravated by infections, which your doctor might need to treat with oral medications.
WHAT IS ECZEMA?
Eczema is a skin condition caused by inflammation of the skin. Typically, eczema causes skin to become itchy, red and dry – even cracked and leathery. Eczema can appear on any part of the body any time of the year, but mostly during cold months.
Eczema is a chronic problem for many people. It is most common in infants, many of whom outgrow it before adulthood. People with eczema have a higher risk of developing allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever. Also secondary fungal and bacterial infections are possible to get through the cracks in the skin.
WHAT CAUSES ECZEMA?
There are different types of eczema. Your dermatologist will be able to tell you what kind of eczema you have. Eczema tends to run in families. Certain genes can cause some people to have extra-sensitive skin. An overactive immune system is thought to be a factor, as well. Also, it’s thought that defects in the skin barrier contribute to eczema. These defects can allow moisture out through the skin and let germs in.
People who wash their hands a lot, use hand sanitizers or antibacterial soap, work with gloves or chemicals (health care professionals, hairdressers, mechanics, teachers, police officers, and housekeepers) or those who take long or hot showers are usually more affected by eczema. You can try to treat eczema by moisturizing with over-the-counter emollients and creams, but seek a dermatologist if it is not getting better in a few weeks.
Among other factors that may trigger eczema are:
• Contact with irritating substances
• Heat and sweat
• Cold, dry climates
• Dry skin
TREATMENTS FOR ECZEMA
Your dermatologist can put you on one or a combination of these:
• Steroid creams or ointments
• Creams or lotions that lubricate the skin
• Antifungal medications
• Antibiotics to treat secondary infections
Because eczema sometimes mimics other conditions like ringworm, psoriasis, rosacea, folliculitis and some autoimmune diseases, we don’t recommend patients to self-treat. If, after moisturizing your rash for few days or weeks, it is not getting better, you have to see your dermatologist. Also, in certain cases dermatologists might check your blood work if they believe it’s necessary; sometimes a simple test called a biopsy, done in the dermatologist’s office, will be performed to confirm the diagnosis.