Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis and is a chronic condition sometimes accompanied by hay fever or asthma. It involves inflammation and itching of the skin and usually appears behind the knees and on the arms although it can affect any area. In most cases it flares up then subsides. The cause is still unknown but some experts believe that it may be due to a malfunction of the immune system combined with inherited sensitive skin. Certain self-care measures can help relieve the symptoms but you should always visit a doctor if it interferes with your daily life.
Topical treatments with hydrocortisone steroids come in both over the counter and prescription varieties, with the over the counter ones being used for mild eczema. These creams and ointments are designed to help reduce inflammation and relieve itching and different locations and severities may require creams of varying strengths. If they are used correctly, these topical corticosteroids will rarely lead to stretch marks or thinning skin.
This is another type of treatment that can be found either over the counter or in prescription strengths. They are designed to lock water into your skin and by doing so reduce itching, redness and dryness as well as repair damaged skin. Some products contain irritating fragrances while others contain ceramide which is a naturally occurring fat found in the outer layer of our skin so it is important to choose the moisturizer carefully.
1. Avoiding Triggers and Scratching
You should avoid common triggers including harsh detergents and soaps and wool products including clothes, bedding and rugs. Other factors that can make eczema worse include sweating, stress and rapid temperature changes.
2. Cool Compress
If you cover the affected area with a cool, wet compress this can help prevent scratching and protect the skin.
3. Warm Bath
Taking a warm (but not hot) bath with added items can help reduce the symptoms. Try adding a bit of baking soda, colloidal oatmeal or uncooked oatmeal. You can also add a half cup of bleach to a 40 gallon bathtub as this can help kill bacteria growing on the skin.
4. Mild Soaps
When you are selecting your bathing products, always opt for mild soaps that do not contain perfumes or dyes and be sure to completely rinse them off.
A great home remedy is to moisturize your skin using a cream or oil to help seal in moisture. Do this while the skin is still slightly damp and be sure to cover your sides, back, arms and legs. If your skin is very dry, you can try a lubricating cream.
The air inside your home can also make your skin more sensitive, leading to increased flaking and dryness. Humidifiers are a great way to add moisture back into your home and prevent this problem. You can opt for either a portable one or a permanent one that attaches to the furnace. There are plenty of options available but you should make sure to clean your humidifier regularly as this prevents fungi and bacteria from growing.
7. Cotton Clothing
As mentioned, you should avoid wearing wool clothing if you have eczema. You should also avoid any other materials that are rough, scratchy or tight as this prevents irritation. It is especially important to select your clothing carefully when exercising or during hot weather as excessive sweating can worsen your eczema.
8. Herbal Remedies
Although there is no conclusive proof that the various herbal remedies help relieve the symptoms associated with eczema, many people recommend them. Some good options include borage seed oil, witch hazel extract, evening-primrose oil and chamomile. Always talk to your doctor before using alternative therapies or dietary supplements as they will help you select which one is right for you.
2. Light Therapy
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, uses artificial or natural light. It can involve exposing the skin to sunlight in controlled amounts and in a controlled setting. Other possibilities include using artificial UVA or UVB lights, with or without medications. It is always important to talk to your doctor before starting phototherapy because although it can be effective, using it too often or for too long can increase your risk of developing skin cancer and lead to premature aging of the skin. Your doctor can help you decide whether this treatment is right for you.