Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin that’s often chronic. Though it can appear in different areas, eczema usually appears on the inside of the elbows, behind the knees, and at other points where friction or moisture frequently occurs. The skin becomes red, swollen, and covered with small blisters that leak fluids. Eczema affects 20% of children and 3% of adults worldwide. It is incredibly common in people who have atopic dermatitis (AD) or “hives.” In fact, 50% of people with hives develop eczema within 5 years.
If you or a family member has eczema, you probably have lots of questions about it: What kinds are there? How will it affect your life? And what’s the best way to manage its symptoms? Keep reading for all the facts on eczema!
What is Eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin that’s often chronic. Though it can appear in different areas, eczema usually appears on the inside of the elbows, behind the knees, and at other points where friction or moisture frequently occurs. The skin becomes red, swollen, and covered with small blisters that leak fluids.
Eczema is often confused with psoriasis, which is a different inflammatory skin condition. Psoriasis usually appears on the surface of the skin as silvery scales and thick, raised patches of red and scaly skin. The best way to prevent eczema is to keep the skin hydrated and free of allergens that can trigger outbreaks. But if eczema has already appeared, you can also try some eczema treatments.
Types of Eczema
There are many types of eczema. Here are the most common types:
- Atopic dermatitis – This is the most common type of eczema, with an incidence rate of 15%. AD typically appears in early childhood and is commonly found in people with allergies.
- Eczema caused by allergies – Next most common, this type of eczema is caused by allergies to specific substances like dust mites, pet dander, or pollen.
- Eczema caused by food allergies – A very rare but particularly severe type, eczema caused by food allergies usually appears in newborns.
- Eczema caused by irritants and staphylococcal infections – These types cause eczema that is triggered by any kind of irritant, including soaps, detergents, and rough clothes. Staphylococcal infections occur when bacteria infect the skin, causing a very painful type of eczema.
- Eczema caused by autoimmune diseases – This type of eczema is caused by an autoimmune disease like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or vitiligo.
How to Manage the Symptoms of Eczema
If you have eczema, the first step in managing your symptoms is to contact your doctor. They can give you a firm diagnosis and prescribe treatment if needed. These are the best ways to treat eczema:
- Keep the skin hydrated and free of allergens – Eczema is often triggered or worsened by dry skin and allergens like dust, dander, and pet hair. Eliminating allergens from the child’s bedroom and play areas is essential, as well as keeping their hands, feet, and other spots prone to eczema clean and moisturized. Eczema flares can also be caused by detergents, so make sure you’re using non-irritating soaps.
- Eczema treatments – Different types of eczema treatments depend on the type. These include over-the-counter steroids like hydrocortisone, oatmeal baths, topical treatments like emu oil, and prescription-strength steroids like clobetasol.
- Eczema diets – There is little research on the effects of eczema diets on symptoms, but some people report better results eating a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in probiotics and avoiding certain allergens like dairy and gluten.
Latest Treatment Options for Eczema
While there is no cure for eczema, there are treatment options to help you manage the symptoms. Here are the latest treatment options for eczema:
- UV therapy – Ultraviolet B (UVB) light therapy is a treatment option for atopic dermatitis. UV therapy is used to help suppress the immune system and reduce the inflammation in the skin that contributes to eczema.
- Infrared therapy – Infrared therapy is a newer option for eczematous patients looking for gentler treatment. It’s often used alongside UV therapy.
- Photochemotherapy – Photochemotherapy is a treatment option for severe eczema. It often involves taking oral steroids, topical steroids, and light therapy. Photochemotherapy is only used as a last resort when other treatments are ineffective.
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is another treatment option for severe eczema. It often involves taking a combination of oral and topical medications.
If you have eczema, the best treatment is to avoid triggers. Avoid triggers like pets, high-temperature water, and harsh soaps, and use mild moisturizers like emu oil.
It’s also important to see a board-certified dermatologist in Philadelphia who can identify the best treatments for your specific case. Dermatologists can also provide useful advice on how to prevent flare-ups, including:
- Avoiding allergens or irritants that may cause flare-ups.
- Using moisturizers or emollients regularly.
- Using topical corticosteroids when needed. Using other topical treatments if appropriate.
- Using sunscreen when you go outside. Reducing stress when possible.
Finally, keep your hands clean and avoid scratching your skin to prevent contagious bacterial infections.
Eczema is a common inflammatory condition of the skin that can be triggered by allergies, irritants, and autoimmune conditions. Eczema can be managed using various eczema treatments like photochemotherapy and immunotherapy. There are also eczema diets that can help.