Eczema is a chronic skin condition that is caused by inflammation. It is also sometimes called atopic dermatitis, which is the most common type of eczema. This condition is common among infants and young children, but adults may have it, too. It tends to run in families, which have certain genes that make their skin extra sensitive. Affected individuals may have an overactive immune system that also increases their risk for developing allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma.
Eczema is often characterized by having skin that is red, itchy, and dry, sometimes cracked and even leathery. It can affect any part of the body and come and go. Factors that trigger eczema include heat, sweat, stress, dry skin, cold and dry climates, and contact with certain skin irritants such as soap or synthetic fabrics.
Usual treatments for eczema include lifestyle modifications such as avoiding stress, heat and sweating, using mild soaps and skin products, and avoiding known irritants. Mild symptoms may be relieved by applying over-the-counter topical medications such as Hydrocortisone creams or ointments. Sometimes doctors may prescribe prescription-strength moisturizers, oral antihistamines, and oral steroids if symptoms do not improve. Medications that suppress the immune system (immunosupressants) or those that control inflammation (immunomodulators) may also be used when other treatments fail. There is no cure for eczema, but a combination of these treatments may help reduce symptoms and relapses.
Phototherapy for Eczema
Another option for treating severe eczema that does not respond to conservative treatment is through the supervised use of ultraviolet (UV) light, or phototherapy. This involves the use of Ultraviolet B (UVB), A (UVA), or a combination these. Phototherapy using a combination of UVA and UVB light can be effective in the treatment of severe atopic dermatitis and may help prevent bacterial infection, which is sometimes a problem in people with eczema. However, phototherapy is often not used as a sole treatment for eczema, but as part of a treatment plan.
One must consider the risks of using phototherapy in the treatment of skin disease, which include increased susceptibility to skin cancer, sunburn, skin damage, eye damage, and worsening of other skin disease. Treatments have to be done repeatedly over a few weeks by trained dermatologists who must consider the suitability of phototherapy, depending on a number of factors, such as the patient's age, medical history, and severity of condition.
The use of tanning beds, which are available to the public, in the treatment of eczema is risky. Sunbeds, which are usually used for cosmetic reasons, emit both UVA and UVB, and are not medically supervised. Some of these machines have the capacity to emit high levels of UV radiation, which may reach up to five times stronger than the midday summer sun. Without proper supervision, consumers may not receive proper assessment and advice as to the suitability of use according to their skin type or their use of certain medications that can increase their skin sensitivity.
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