Eczema is dermatitis, which is an inflammation of the upper layers of skin. It is a rash that is either persistent or recurring with itchiness and dryness of the skin. There are four common types of eczema.
Atopic eczema or dermatitis, as the name suggests, involves a hereditary predisposition. This type of eczema occurs in families with a history of hay fever, asthma, or eczema. Contact dermatitis occurs due to contact with an allergic or irritant substance. Xerotic eczema is dry skin that becomes so dry it turns in to eczema. This type of eczema is more common in the winter. Seborrheic dermatitis is also known as cradle cap. It occurs when the sebaceous glands cause the skin to become oily. This type of eczema normally occurs on the scalp and eyebrows.
There is no cure for eczema. However, eczema sufferers can do a variety of things to help control symptoms and to lessen the frequency and intensity of eczema episodes. The most common prescription treatments include a cortisone based cream and an antipruritic. If you, or someone in your family, suffer from eczema, it is important to consult your family doctor or a specialist.
There are many things you can do at home to help treat and lessen eczema. Although eczema is not curable, many young children who have eczema eventually outgrow it or have less frequent episodes with time.
The most basic treatment is to avoid harsh scented soaps and detergents because both remove natural oils from the skin. Use mild soaps or oil based cleansers that will not dry out the skin. When bathing, use soap only where needed, elsewhere on the body use just water. Avoid scrubbing the skin with sponges or towels instead lather up using only your hands. Warm water will not dry out the skin as much as hot water. For the bath, the best option is a shower and the coolest water you can manage.
Moisturizing the skin after the bath and avoiding further loss of natural oils is very important. When drying off, do not rub the skin with the towel instead pat the skin dry, or if possible let the skin air dry. If the temperature permits apply an oil, such as baby oil or almond oil, while the skin is still moist and allow to air-dry. Other moisturizers can also be helpful. You may need to try a couple of different kinds until you find the one that is best suited for you. When looking for a moisturizer or oil select one for dry skin and unscented. Eczema prone skin should be moisturized at least twice a day.
When an eczema break out does occur, you may need to apply a prescription ointment or cream. Some non-prescription relief from the itchiness does exist. You can apply Vaseline, calamine, oatmeal baths, ice packs, or an over the counter antipruritic. To reduce the itching it is also important to avoid sweating and to wear cotton clothes.
Especially in the cases of atopic eczema and contact dermatitis, the clothes you wear and the type of laundry detergent you use are important. Avoid itchy clothes, and prefer cotton and other fabrics that do not itch. If a particular piece of clothing seems to cause you to itch, it should not be worn. Use unscented detergents for the laundry and rinse the clothes a second time. Most washing machines will allow you to run the rinse cycle a second time.
When treating eczema each case is individual. This article covers general care rules; however, no one treatment is successful for everyone. Some people will do well with a mild soap, others will need to avoid soap altogether to keep the eczema in check. If you suffer from eczema, you will need to try different bath soaps or cleansers, different moisturizers, and even different laundry detergents until you find the combination that suits your skin.
The adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is especially true for eczema sufferers. Although these indications may be a drastic change in routine, they are not as uncomfortable as itchy skin.