by Shannon Driscoll, PA-C.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, extremely itchy skin. 95% of people develop eczema before age 5 and eczema often flares seasonally, but can be present year-round. Infants commonly develop rashes on the face, scalp, and torso, while in childhood and into adulthood, the most common areas of the body to get a rash are on the inside of the elbows and behind the knees. The rash can, however, occur anywhere on the body. Sometimes, this rash can develop into a superficial skin infection with small blisters, crusting, sores, or moist patches of skin.
The exact cause of eczema is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Individuals with eczema have skin that has difficulty retaining moisture and keeping out environmental irritants. For these reasons, it is very important for eczema-prone individuals to avoid fragranced soaps, moisturizers, laundry detergents, etc. Eczema patients are also more likely to have seasonal allergies, asthma, and food allergies so keep a lookout for signs of these conditions.
How is Eczema Treated?
There are several approved medications for treating eczema, but the first step to controlling skin rash/itch is to moisturize! Creams are better than lotions, and I usually recommend Vanicream or CeraVe cream. Other topical treatments often depend on age and body surface area. Options include topical steroids, topical non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications, UV light therapy (see last month’s psoriasis article for details), and prescription oral medications. Unlike psoriasis, for which there are now several injectable medications, there is only one approved for eczema. This medication is approved in individuals aged 6 and older and can be very effective in treating moderate-severe or stubborn eczema.