Eczema also known as atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease characterized by extremely itchy dry skin. It is caused by a defect in how the skin is put together leading to difficulty in maintaining moisture in the skin. Scratching can lead to redness, swelling, cracking, “weeping” clear fluid, and sometimes even bacterial skin infections. In most cases, there are periods of time when the disease is worse (called exacerbations or flares) followed by periods when the skin improves or clears up entirely (called remissions). Some individuals with atopic dermatitis will see their skin disease improve or disappear altogether as they get older, although their skin often remains dry and easily irritated. In others, atopic dermatitis continues to be a significant problem in adulthood.
Identifying allergic and non-allergic triggers is one way in which we can decrease the frequency of exacerbations. However, skin care is the most important factor in maintaining the integrity of the skin and decreasing itching. Below are some tips to keep skin clear and non-inflamed.
Lukewarm baths or showers, pat dry with towel (do not rub)
Use unscented dye-free soaps, detergents, moisturizers, lotions (Dove, Aveeno, Cerave, Vanicream, Eucerin etc.)
On rough spots, or flared areas apply topical steroid cream and then seal with moisturizer twice daily
Apply moisterizer immediately following bathing and as often as needed
Keep fingernails filed short
Select soft cotton fabrics when choosing clothing, avoid wool or scratchy materials
Consider using antihistamines to promote sleep and reduce scratching at night
Avoid situations where overheating occurs
Avoid use of dryer sheets
Learn to recognize skin infections and seek treatment promptly
Identify and remove contact irritants and allergens
Avoid foods that you skin test positive to see if this helps your skin
Consider immunotherapy, or injectable medications for moderate or severe eczema
If eczema is getting you down, make an appointment with board certified allergist Sandra A. Ho, MD at Avant Allergy to help manage your symptoms.