Essential Eczema or Dermatitis is a chronic, itchy inflammatory condition. The cause is unknown. Atopic Dermatitis, one form of eczema, is predominately a disease of childhood, usually beginning before age one. Most children outgrow their disease by adolescence. Adults may continue to have atopic dermatitis manifested by patches of eczema on the hands, feet, and elsewhere. Contact Dermatitis, another form of eczema, is caused by exposure to irritating or allergic chemicals contacting the skin.
- Treatment of eczema (dermatitis) is aimed at reducing itching and inflammation of the skin.
- Avoid irritants – harsh soap, wool clothes, solvents and other irritating chemicals, uncomfortable climate. Washing should be done with warm water using a mild soap such as Dove, Oil of Olay Sensitive Skin, or Cetaphil.
- Moisturizers – should be used liberally and frequently, particularly after bathing. There are a number of moisturizers available such as: Cetaphil, Lubriderm, Neutrogena, CeraVe Cream and plain petroleum jelly. Moisturizers reduce dry skin and itching.
- Steroids – may be prescribed. These should be used cautiously since topical steroids can cause thinning of the skin. Systemic steroids can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, thinning of the bones and adrenal suppression.
- Protopic and Elidel - are anti-inflammatory agents which are not steroids. They are very safe.
- Antihistamines – are used to reduce itching. Benadryl, Zyrtec or prescription antihistamines may cause sleepiness.
- Baths – oatmeal ( Aveeno ) or tar ( Cutar )are sometimes used for their soothing effect on the skin.
- Antibiotics – are used when the skin is secondarily infected.
- Ultraviolet light – can reduce inflammation and itching.
- For more information: National Eczema Association at www.nationaleczema.org.
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