Dermatologists aren’t sure why atopic dermatitis—the most common form of eczema—is showing up in more children and adults than ever before. They have discovered that the symptoms of itchy, red and irritated skin can get worse if you simply hope they’ll just go away and avoid treatment. Easing the torment of super-dry skin with warm baths and moisturizers can help. Over-the-counter treatments are available, but your first step should be making an appointment with your doctor. Here’s why: atopic dermatitis is just one of several causes of eczema.
Other forms of eczema also cause intensely itchy patches of skin, and different types respond differently to treatments. While researchers have found no cure for eczema, there is help. Your doctor can help you find the best treatment regimen and also identify what triggers your eczema. You’ll manage the condition better when you know what irritants are in your everyday surroundings.
While there are prescription creams for eczema, you won’t need a prescription for over-the-counter products or medications. OTC products are used to help ease symptoms such as itchiness, rash and redness. Others are gentle cleansers that help prevent infection.
The National Eczema Association offers a directory of products that have received the NEA Seal of Acceptance™ as suitable for the care of eczema or sensitive skin. Check it out for a list of over-the-counter drugs, moisturizers, cleansers, hair care products, sunscreens, clothing and fabrics, disposable wipes and household products.
Nobody is accusing you of having BO when they recommend you go take a bath. Soaking in a warm bath or luxuriating under a warm shower is the most effective way to treat dry skin if you follow up with moisturizer within three minutes of stepping out. Adding ingredients such as vinegar, salt, oatmeal or baking soda to your bath water can ease specific symptoms. Ask your doctor which might help you.
Many people with eczema have skin that’s drier than normal because their skin barrier is out of sorts. The skin barrier is supposed to keep irritants and allergens out and moisture in. When it’s out of balance, resulting skin irritation that causes eczema to flare.
Some culprits that can lead to dry skin are washing too much without using moisturizer immediately, harsh soap, wind, low humidity and cold temperatures.
These medications are available through your doctor to help ease redness, rash, dryness and itching. Corticosteroids (steroids), PDE4 inhibitors, topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) and skin barrier creams are applied to the skin.
Your doctor may use a special machine that emits narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) light onto the skin to help reduce itching and inflammation, increase vitamin D production and boost bacteria-fighting systems in the skin.
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of eczema, but they do understand that the immune system is involved. The immune system overreacts to irritants and produces the inflammation that triggers itching, redness and skin barrier problems.
Your doctor may prescribe an immunosuppressant drug to control, or suppress, the immune system and slow down the symptoms of severe eczema.
Biologics are administered intravenously as infusions to target specific parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation. These drugs contain genetically engineered proteins derived from human genes.
Alternative and complementary therapies
Plant-based topicals such as coconut oils and sunflower oil and topical ointments containing cardiospermum or topical vitamin B12 are some treatments that studies show can help control eczema symptoms. Acupressure, massage and biofeedback are some of the mind-body options that may help.