What Is Eczema?
There are seven types of eczema:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic eczema
- Nummular eczema
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Stasis dermatitis
What Are Symptoms of Eczema?
Symptoms of eczema include:
- Intense skin itching
- Itching may be worse at night
- Scratching may aggravate inflammation and itching
- Oozing, bleeding, or crusting may occur on areas that are scratched open
- Pustules, blisters, and red hot skin if a secondary infection occurs
- Thickened and darkened, or even scarred, skin can occur from repeated scratching
- Patches of inflamed skin/skin swelling
- Plugged hair follicles causing small bumps, usually on the face, upper arms, and thighs
- Skin flaking
- Scaly, rough patches of skin
- Dry skin
- Sensitive skin
- Skin discoloration (especially red or pink)
- Increased skin creasing on the palms and/or an extra fold of skin under the eye
- Darkening of the skin around the eyes
Eczema can appear on different parts of the body, such as:
- The front of the arms and legs, cheeks, or scalp in infants
- Back of the neck, the elbow creases, and the backs of the knees in children and adults
- The face, trunk, wrists, and forearms
What Causes Eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood but is believed that genetics play a strong role, and people with a family history of eczema are at increased risk of developing the condition.
Common triggers for eczema symptoms may include:
Is Eczema Contagious?
Eczema is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted from person-to-person. Eczema is believed to be caused by a combination of genes and environmental triggers.
How Is Eczema Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of eczema is generally based on a patient’s medical history, clinical symptoms, and a physical examination.
What Is the Treatment for Eczema?
Eczema is a chronic condition that worsens (flares) periodically in between times of mild to no symptoms. Eczema cannot be cured but it may be managed with home care and medications.
Home remedies to reduce or relieve symptoms of eczema include:
- Identifying and eliminating triggers
- Keeping the skin hydrated
- Use thick creams (for example, Eucerin, Cetaphil, and Nutraderm) or ointments (such as petroleum jelly, Aquaphor, and Vaseline) that contain little to no water
- Apply immediately after bathing for the best results
- Apply twice daily or more frequently as needed
- Lukewarm baths or showers can hydrate and cool the skin and may help relieve itching
- Use unscented, mild soap or non-soap cleanser (such as Cetaphil) sparingly
- Apply an emollient immediately after bathing or showering
- Avoid hot baths or showers, or those lasting more than 10 to 15 minutes because they can dry the skin
- Dilute bleach baths may be recommended decrease the number of bacteria on the skin that can cause infections or worsen symptoms
- Use one-fourth to one-half cup of bleach in a full bathtub (about 40 gallons) of water and bathe 5 to 10 minutes twice weekly, followed by application of an emollient
- Wet dressings (wet wraps) may be used to help soothe and hydrate skin, reduce itching and redness, loosen crusted areas, and prevent skin injury due to scratching
Medications used to treat eczema include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription topical steroid creams or ointments
- Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription oral antihistamines for itching
- Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic) and pimecrolimus cream (Elidel)
- Oral steroids (e.g., prednisone) may be used for short periods to treat severe flares
- Injectable “biologics” such as dupilumab (Dupixent) for adults with moderate to severe eczema that has not responded to other treatments
- Immunosuppressive drugs may be recommended for patients with severe eczema who do not improve with other treatments
Ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy) is another treatment used to help control eczema. The treatment is reserved for patients with severe eczema who do not respond to other treatments because it is expensive and can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
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