Finding Relief from Eczema
If you’ve ever had poison ivy or another itchy red rash, you know how irritating they can be. If you suffer from eczema, you struggle with itchy, red patches on your skin frequently, which can also worsen into skin infections.
Although eczema isn’t a severe, life-threatening disease, dealing with the itching, burning, pain, and discomfort and be frustrating and lead to sleep issues and other health problems.
Eczema is an umbrella term that refers to a group of skin conditions. Also known atopic dermatitis, eczema cause redness, irritation, and inflammation to the skin. Its cause is unknown, but it is generally thought to be related to your body’s immune system overreacting to an irritant.
Eczema is typically quite itchy, with itching often being the first symptom. You’ll most often find eczema rashes on the hands, feet, back of the knees or face, but any area of the body can be affected.
Telltale signs of eczema are flaky, scaly, dry, or even scabby skin. It may also blister and ooze. The characteristic rash will be atop inflamed, red skin which will be irritated and uncomfortable. The affected areas usually have a different color, with lighter-skinned people having eczema patches that appear red or brown, and darker-skinned people having eczema that can have lighter or darker pigmentation.
Scratching makes eczema worse, so try not to do it. It can also lead to skin infections, which must be treated separately and can cause complications and scarring.
There is a genetic component in who develops eczema; if someone in your immediate family has or had eczema, it is more likely that you will as well. Eczema is more prevalent in people who also have allergies or asthma. Although the rash is unsightly, it is not contagious.
Typical eczema symptoms:
- Red, dry, flaky, or scaly skin
- A rash that itches and burns. It may also ooze and sting.
- Red or clear fluid-filled bumps that are itchy
- Skin that hardens or cracks
- Difficulty sleeping from the discomfort and pain
Eczema is much more common in children and teens. Statistically 10-20% of infants and children have eczema, but only about 3% of adults. Most children who have eczema outgrow it by the time they are 10 years old, though some people struggle with it all their lives.
Eczema can be exacerbated or made worse due to:
- Coarse, rough, or scratchy fabrics
- Detergents or soaps
- Animal dander
- Certain medications
- Getting a cold
- Very hot temperatures
Worsened or reappearing eczema is known as a flare-up. Fortunately, there are many treatments to help improve or alleviate symptoms of active eczema rashes and prevent future flare-ups.
If you’re experiencing itchy red patches on your skin, it’s a good idea to go to a doctor for a diagnosis. Generally, to diagnose eczema, you don’t need to see a specialist. Your pediatrician, primary care physician, or dermatologist can help. They will look at your rash, ask questions about your medical history, and possibly perform patch testing to rule out other skin conditions or causes for the outbreak.
No lab tests are needed to diagnose eczema. However, since eczema is also common in people with allergies and allergies can trigger eczema flare-ups, your doctor may refer you to an allergist for testing. If your eczema is particularly troublesome and resistant to treatment, your doctor may recommend seeing an immunologist to determine if there are other strategies for relief and prevention.
Eczema has many treatments to help reduce inflammation and the urge to scratch. These come in creams, ointments, capsules, and even injections. Depending on what your doctor prescribes, they may be used in combination or alone.
There are several types of creams you can apply directly to the eczema patches that your doctor may prescribe.
Corticosteroids. You can get a lower dosage of standard corticosteroid cream, hydrocortisone, over the counter in many drug or grocery stores. Stronger dosages are available by prescription. These creams or ointments help lessen inflammation to allow the body to stop overreacting and begin healing.
Immuno-response creams are used to help eczema sufferers over the age of 2 who don't experience relief from the corticosteroid creams or need an alternative for another reason. These creams contain calcineurin inhibitors that help stop your immune system’s overreaction. Brand names you might have heard of include Protopic and Elidel.
Antibiotic creams. Often, from scratching, you will develop a bacterial skin infection, but bacteria on the skin can also exacerbate eczema. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream or ointment to get rid of that infection or inflammation.
Wet Dressings and Cold Compresses
Wrapping the areas affected with asthma with wet bandages or applying cold compresses to the skin will help relieve eczema symptoms. The wet dressing helps cool the area and lessen the itching and burning. Having the area covered helps fight the urge to scratch.
You can apply your topical creams first, then cover with the compress or wet bandages for an extra measure of relief.
Oral Antihistamines, Steroids, or Antibiotics
Antihistamines such as Benadryl can also help calm an allergic eczema flare up. Steroids, such as prednisone, can be administered orally and used in combination with a topical cream. Oral steroids get into your system and affect your immune response. If your bacterial infection is advanced, oral antibiotics may help, as well.
Homeopathic and Natural Remedies
Non-prescription remedies can also be an excellent treatment to have on hand. These include:
- Vitamin E oil - used topically on your eczema patches it helps calm inflammation and contains antioxidants to protect and build skins cells.
- Vinca Minor extract - helps soothe red, inflamed skin.
- Graphite Supplement - helps improve a variety of skin conditions, including eczema
- Cool baths - soothe the skin
- Oatmeal soap or lotion - oatmeal calms angry, inflamed skin and also moisturizes
When you’re dealing with allergic eczema, you just want to find relief. Your eczema symptoms may belie additional allergies or other health issues, so it’s best to get checked out.