If you have very dry, itchy skin, sometimes bleeding, you may have eczema and should see one of our medical dermatology specialists at Colorado Springs Dermatology Clinic for an effective eczema treatment recommendation.
Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is a skin condition characterized by extremely dry, itchy skin. Patches of affected skin can become red and bleed, particularly if vigorous scratching has broken the skin. Though aggravating, the condition is not contagious and can be treated. Your doctor may prescribe any of a number of treatments, depending on the severity of your case and the area of skin affected. While mild cases can usually be treated with topical remedies and a special mild skin care routine, more severe cases may require oral medications. Common in infants and young children, the condition may disappear on its own by adulthood, sometimes later reappearing, usually on the hands.
Why is Eczema Treatment Important?
Treating eczema is important for a number of reasons. Proper eczema treatment can:
- prevent the condition from getting worse
- prevent development of infection
- relieve pain and itching and calm the skin
- prevent the skin from thickening
- lessen emotional stress
How Can Eczema be Treated?
Treatment plans are individually tailored to each patient’s specific needs, and may involve medicine, lifestyle changes and special skin care. In fact, simply changing skincare routines and making a few lifestyle changes may prevent flare-ups without use of medication. An overall plan of treatment can:
- reduce inflammation
- clear any infections
- loosen and/or remove scaly lesions
- prevent formation of new lesions
- control itching
The National Eczema Association recommends a special skin care regime designed to alleviate symptoms.
- Take lukewarm baths and short showers, as long or hot showers can dry out your skin.
- Use only non-drying non-soap cleanser or mild soap.
- Afterward, gently pat skin dry with a soft towel, being sure not to rub skin.
- Within three minutes, apply moisturizer to ‘lock in’ moisture from bathing.
- Moisturize at least one other time each day.
- Wear cotton or soft fabrics clothing.
- Use a humidifier.
You can make changes to your lifestyle that can reduce eczema outbreaks. Stress reduction has been found to be a huge help in reducing number and severity of outbreaks. A great way to accomplish this while improving overall health and fitness is to exercise regularly.
What Medications Are Helpful for Eczema?
In cases not sufficiently improved by skin care and lifestyle changes, your physician may recommend use of topical or oral medications.
You may use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for mild eczema, while more severe cases could require a prescription formulation.
Over-the-counter antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), generally used for allergies, may help reduce symptoms. Some may cause drowsiness, so unless you are using the medication for nighttime itching, it’s best to look for a non-drowsy formulation.
In more resistant cases, corticosteroids may be recommended. These cortisone-like medications are used to treat inflamed areas of the body, lessening redness, itching, swelling and allergic reactions. As with all steroids, follow your doctor’s directions carefully when using these drugs.
Often used after organ transplants, these are medications that suppress the immune system, slowing down your body’s natural defense system to prevent it from further damaging skin (in the case of eczema). Sometimes used in atopic dermatitis cases when other treatments have failed, immunosuppressants include cyclosporine, methotrexate and azathioprine. These are strong medications and dosage regimens your doctor gives you should be strictly followed.
Used to control inflammation and reduce immune system reactions, these topical creams are sometimes used in eczema cases that have proven resistant to other treatments. Elidel® and Protopic® are two of the most commonly prescribed. However, the FDA has put its strongest ‘black box’ risk warning on these drugs, recommending only short term use on adults and children over the age of two.