Eczema is one of the most common forms of skin allergies, which is characterized by itchy and red skin. Children are the ones most exposed to eczema (which also known as “atopic dermatitis”), but there are cases where it can appear at a later age, in adults. It’s a long-term chronic issue, with periodic flares. While a cure has yet to be discovered, atopic dermatitis can be kept under control with a few recommended measures.
Atopic dermatitis medication
- Ointments or corticosteroid creams
- Calcineurin inhibitors
- Antibiotic creams
- Oral corticosteroids
As a long-term condition, atopic dermatitis requires constant treatment. Despite successful treatments and proper medication, eczema is a condition that could return. Whatever the case, it’s important to start treating this condition in its early stages, but treatment may vary depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
One form of medication that’s typical to this condition is itch-control cream. Doctors may prescribe ointments or corticosteroid creams, that help repair the skin and alleviate that itchy feeling. These creams are typically applied after the skin has been moisturized, but there are side effects to overusing, such as thinning of the skin.
Certain creams contain calcineurin inhibitors, and they used to control skin reactions. However, they are known to affect the immune system, so they generally have a black box warning about the potentials of causing cancer. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology claims that current available data does not support claims brought by the black box warning.
Others form of medication include antibiotic creams that help fight skin infections, but they are only recommended in case bacteria is present. Oral antibiotics are also an alternative. In case the atopic dermatitis is severe, doctors can prescribe oral corticosteroids, which help control inflammation. The downside is that these drugs aren’t efficient for long-term use, as they can cause major side effects.
What is phototherapy?
Also known as light therapy, phototherapy uses UV light to prevent the immune system from having extreme reactions to eczema. It’s efficient in treating moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, although there is a list of potential risks.
What this therapy implies is exposing the patient to controlled amounts of sunlight, but there also artificial forms of UV light used in certain scenarios. Because of the risks, phototherapy is not recommended for children. The risks are similar to those people expose themselves to when spending too much time in direct sunlight: skin aging, melanoma, headaches, and sunburn.
A specific form of light therapy is PUVA treatment. It’s generally applied to patients that have yet to witness any results from regular phototherapy. With PUVA treatment, a person has to take psoralen, a prescription medication that sensitizes the skin, making it more responsive to UVA light effects.
What happens during phototherapy?
Statistics have revealed that about 70 percent of the people to have eczema and turn to light therapy begin to feel better. Each time a patient undergoes phototherapy, the steps to follow are identical. First, one undress to the underwear and wear nothing but that, and a set of protective goggles. The skin is moisturized with special oils before stepping into the machine.
The machine is turned on for a few seconds to minutes. When activated, it either treats specific areas of the body, or the entire surface. A specialist will keep track of the skin’s response to the treatment and gradually increase the exposure in time.
As the treatment progresses, visit frequency can be reduced to once or twice per week. If there are noticeable improvements, doctors may choose to interrupt treatment and examine if a patient’s atopic dermatitis is in remission. Depending on the progress, patients may be required to restart the cycle or reduce the frequency of visits.
What is wet therapy?
Another way to treat severe eczema is to apply wet dressing to the skin. The affected area is covered in a combination of topical corticosteroids and a series of wet bandages. In the most severe cases, wet dressing therapy may require hospitalization, because the treatment is very elaborate and require nursing expertise. However, doctors may choose to teach this process to some of their patients, so they can perform this treatment at home.
Self-Care & Home Treatments
- Anti-itch creams
- Avoid soaps and perfumes
- Use humidifiers
A major part of treating eczema is improving your lifestyle and understanding how self-skin-care is a step towards promising results. Keeping the skin moisturized is the easiest thing you can do. Some experimenting may be required, until a person can find the right combination of products that are best suited for their skin. Typically, these products are sprays, ointments, creams, or bath oils.
Eczema is a condition that involves a lot of skin itching and, in this case, it’s recommended to apply anti-itch cream. Creams that contain hydrocortisone are commonly used in cases of atopic dermatitis. It’s important to moisturize before applying an anti-itch cream, but no more than twice a day. Moisturizer helps medication penetrate the skin faster. Of course, it’s very important to avoid scratching skin that’s already irritated. A good idea would be to cover the skin with bandages after having applied all creams and ointments.
Avoid soaps and perfumes
A common mistake that people who suffer from atopic dermatitis make is to use soap and shower gels with parabens and perfume. The more natural and fatter the soap is, the better. Also, it’s good to avoid excess perfume (no perfume at all is a better idea, and always make sure you don’t spray it on irritated skin).
People who live in areas or homes with dry air should consider purchasing a humidifier. Human skin becomes more sensitive in environments where humidity is not within the optimal interval. Dry air can cause further irritations, as well as skin cracks.
Eczema is a very emotional condition, and a lot of people who suffer from it need all the emotional support they can get. Because it’s so visible, people become very self-conscious and feel uncomfortable in their skin. Atopic dermatitis can often lead to depression, but dermatologists are here to help people understand the implication and cope with the situation.