Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a condition which makes skin itchy and red. This condition is common in children but it can occur at any age. Eczema is long lasting and tends to flare periodically and then subside. The condition can be accompanied by hay fever or asthma.
Eczema has no cure. However, self-care measures and treatments can relive itching and prevent new outbreaks. It helps to avoid irritants, such as harsh soaps, apply medicated ointments or creams, and moisturize your skin.
It is highly recommended that you visit your doctor in case eczema distracts you from your daily routines and prevent you from sleeping. Eczema can be persistent. In order to control it, you may need to try many different treatments over a few months or years. However, your signs and symptoms may return even if you respond to treatment. It is very important to recognize the condition early so you can start treatment. In case regular moisturizing and other self-care steps don’t work, your doctor can suggest some of the following drugs and treatments.
Injected or oral drugs which control inflammation: For more-severe cases, you may be prescribed oral corticosteroids or an injected corticosteroid. These drugs are effective. However, they cannot be used in a long-term, since they can cause serious side effects. It is recommended that you continue to use other self-care remedies in order to prevent a flare-up after you stop taking the corticosteroids.
Oral anti-itch drugs: Oral antihistamines may help if itching is severe. Diphenhydramine may be especially helpful at bedtime, since it can make you sleepy.
Drugs to fight infection: If you have a bacterial skin infection you may need antibiotics. In order to treat an infection, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics for a short time. Or your doctor may suggest that you take it for a longer period in order to reduce bacteria on your skin and to prevent another infection.
Creams which help repair the skin: Drugs called calcineurin inhibitors affect your immune system. They help maintain normal skin, reduce flares and control itching of eczema, when applied to the skin. These prescription-only drugs are used only if someone cannot tolerate other treatments or when other treatments have failed, due to its possible side effects. These drugs are approved for children who 2 years old or older as well as for adults.
Creams which control inflammation and itching: Your doctor may prescribe an ointment or a corticosteroid cream. Before you use any topical corticosteroid, it is important that you talk to your doctor. Overuse of this drug can cause thinning of the skin, stretch marks, skin discoloration or irritation, and infections.
When it comes to therapies, you doctor may suggest some of the following:
Relaxation, behavior modification or biofeedback: These therapies can help you with habitual scratching.
Treatment for stress: Counseling can help young adults as well as children who are extremely embarrassed or frustrated by their skin condition.
Light therapy: Phototherapy is the simplest form of light therapy which involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight. Some other forms may use artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) alone or with medications. Even though this therapy is effective, it has harmful effects in long-term, such as increased risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging. Therefore, this therapy is not used for young children and infants.
Wet dressings: Intensive and effective treatment for severe eczema includes wrapping the affected area with wet bandages and topical corticosteroids. It is proven that it controls symptoms within hours to days. Sometimes, this treatment is done in a hospital, because it require nursing expertise and is labor intensive.
There are some treatments for infantile eczema, such as avoiding extreme temperatures, identifying and avoiding skin irritations, and lubricating your baby’s skin with ointments, creams, lotions, or bath oils. In case these measures don’t improve the rash or if the rash looks infected, visit your baby’s doctor. Your baby may need a prescription medication in order to treat an infection or to control the rash.