Atopic dermatitis can be inherited and is caused by a defective skin barrier. The skin does not do a good job of keeping moisture in and irritants and allergens out. Eczema often gets worse with certain triggers, such as dry skin, infection, allergens, stress, heat, and sweating.
What is Eczema?
- The word “eczema” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to boil over,” which is a good description for the red, inflamed, itchy patches that occur during flare-ups of the disease.
- Eczema is the general term for any type of dermatitis or inflammation of the skin.
- When eczema develops in childhood it is often called “atopic dermatitis” and can be a lifelong condition.
What Causes Eczema?
- Atopic dermatitis can be inherited and is caused by a defective skin barrier. The skin does not do a good job of keeping moisture in and irritants and allergens out.
- Atopic dermatitis often coexists with other “atopic” or allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.
- Eczema often gets worse with certain triggers such as dry skin, infection, allergens, stress, heat, and sweating.
Is Eczema Caused by Food Allergies?
- Some people with eczema have food allergies, but it is often not the primary cause for their condition.
- The diagnosis of food allergies should be done by a physician and verified with a food challenge. Severely limiting a diet can be dangerous.
What are the Treatment Options for Eczema?
For most patients we start with a three-part approach:
- Good skincare – mild fragrance-free cleansers, short warm showers or baths, and thick moisturizers immediately after bathing
- Topical steroids to any areas with a rash
- Antihistamine medications (like Benadryl) to control the itching
When these measures don’t control the symptoms, then sometimes oral steroids, antibiotics, light treatment or stronger immune-suppressing medications can be used.
Are Topical Steroids Safe to Use?
- Topical steroids are safe if the correct strength is used in the correct location for the correct length of time.
- Problems occur when people use a strong topical steroid on their face that is meant for their hands. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for topical steroid use.
What Are Some Skin Care Tips for People With Eczema?
- It is okay to take a bath or shower every day, just keep it short (10 minutes) and use warm, not hot, water.
- Use non-soap cleansers such as fragrance-free body washes. These are less likely to strip the skin of its natural oils.
- Apply topical steroids and moisturizers to the skin while it is still moist. This helps “seal” extra moisture in the skin.
- Greasy ointments like Vaseline or Aquaphor are the most moisturizing, followed by creams (in tubs), then lotions (in pumps).