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Eczema: What you need to know and how to manage it

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition marked by itchy and inflamed patches of skin. Eczema can occur anywhere but usually affects the arms, inner elbows, backs of knees or head (particularly the cheeks and scalp). It’s not contagious, and, in some cases, becomes less severe with age.

Signs and Symptoms of Eczema include:

  • Intense itching
  • Reddish or brownish-gray patches
  • Small, raised bumps that ooze fluid when scratched
  • Crusty patches of dried skin, yellowish ooze, which can signal infection
  • Thickened, scaly skin

Causes of Eczema

The cause of eczema is still not fully understood. However, it’s believed to be as a result of an overactive immune system that responds aggressively when exposed to irritants like:

  • Chemicals found in cleaners and detergents that dry out the skin
  • Rough scratchy material, like wool
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Raised body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Animal dander
  • Sometimes, food allergies

How to diagnose or identify Eczema:

There are no specific tests for eczema. Diagnosis is usually by observation and review of medical history.

When eczema starts, your skin itches, turns red, burns, and stings. Itchy bumps called hives may pop up on your skin, fluid filled blisters can form that may ooze and crust over time, the skin may thicken and feel scaly or leathery.

How is eczema treated?

  1. Oral over the counter (OTC) antihistamines may relieve itching. These include Cetrizine, Claritine, Benadryl and the rest.
  2. Steroid cream and ointments also relieve itching and scaling. They include mometasone, Hydrocortisone, clobetasol. However, care should be exercised when using steroids because prolonged use can cause:
  • Thinning of skin
  • Irritation of skin
  • Discoloration of skin

Therefore, when using Steroid creams or ointments, DON’T use them for more than two weeks.

3. Lifestyle changes are also paramount when managing eczema. Get rid or limit exposure to triggering substances.

4. Finally, there are a lot of great steroid-free over the counter creams, lotions, and soaps to help with eczema symptoms. These are the most commonly prescribed by dermatologists because of no side effects related with steroids.

These products include:

Since they are safe to use, they are incorporated into the skincare routine to prevent eczema flare ups.