Do I have eczema?
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is one of the most common allergic diseases. But what does eczema look like? What does it feel like? David Amrol, MD, explained what eczema is and how you can treat it.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition whose hallmark symptoms include dry skin and itching. Symptoms can also include itchy, red bumps that, when scratched, develop into skin thickened plaques with color changes and cracking.
Eczema usually starts in preschool and is thought to be caused by genetics and skin barrier defects, such as rough, scaly skin. It typically appears in babies on their cheeks and on adults in the creases of their elbows, knees, neck, wrists and ankles.
“Eczema is associated with other allergic diseases,” said Dr. Amrol. “It is the biggest risk factor we know of for food allergy, asthma and allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies. If you have a child with eczema, they’ll probably develop allergy issues later.”
Eczema can also be complicated by infections, such as staph, strep, viruses and fungus.
How do you treat eczema?
Eczema has several treatment options, but the key to treating it is to moisturize. You want to use mild lotions, such as Vanicream, Cetaphil, CeraVe or Aquaphor, and mild, soap free cleansers, such as Dove Sensitive, Cetaphil or Aveeno.
“It’s okay to bathe every day, as long as you use a mild cleanser and water that isn’t too hot because it melts away our natural oils. Also, keep your showers or baths short,” said Dr. Amrol.
There are also topical steroids. Dr. Amrol recommends 1% hydrocortisone over the counter for mild eczema. And if that’s not enough, ask your doctor about a prescription strength steroid. Use it as needed for 1–2 weeks.
“You don’t want to use steroids long term, because you can get thinning and atrophy of the skin and stretch marks. As soon as the skin is better, back off from using the topical steroid,” said Dr. Amrol.
Other treatments include:
- Other medication – pimecrolimus or tacrolimus
- Light therapy – using UV light
- Wet wraps – using moist gauze after moisturizing
- Dupilumad (Dupixent) and injectable biologic
There is no cure for eczema, but proper management and treatment can limit symptoms.
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