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What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a frustrating skin condition that affects 35 million Americans. It is an inflammatory skin condition where the skin barrier is not working properly. The skin becomes itchy, irritated, and sensitive. This usually starts in early childhood, especially in those with a family history of conditions like asthma, food allergies, and seasonal allergies. Many different factors contribute to the condition of eczema, some of which can be adjusted to improve the skin. Eczema is a condition that can be a burden and affect one’s lifestyle. Thankfully, there are numerous options for treatment.

What causes eczema?

Eczema is caused by multiple factors that result in a poor skin barrier. When the skin is not doing its job well, moisture is lost and irritants from the outside can get in. As the skin dries out and gets exposed to irritants, it becomes inflamed and itchy. With itching comes scratching and more inflammation, making the problem worse. Some of the causes that can contribute to the risk of developing eczema include genetic and environmental factors, microbiome and immune system dysregulation. Risk factors include a family history of eczema or asthma, food allergies, or seasonal allergies.

What are the symptoms of eczema?

The appearance and symptoms of eczema can appear differently depending on how old an individual is. In very young children, irritated spots can appear on the face, neck, and limbs. In young adults, irritated and thickened red patches can be seen more commonly behind the knees, on the wrists, ankles, eyelids and mouth. The severity of eczema varies widely for each person and can appear as a very mild irritation or be very severe. Complications from eczema include a higher risk for skin infections, greater risk for skin allergies, and itching that affects daily functioning and sleep. Eczema also means sensitive skin, with things like sweat, stress, heat, fragrances, soaps, and other environmental factors irritating the skin.

What are the treatment options for eczema?

An important long-term treatment regimen focuses on maintaining a strong and well hydrated skin barrier. A good skin barrier means less irritation. Returning moisture to the skin can be done through frequent use of a fragrance-free and hypoallergenic moisturizer.  Applying a moisturizer right after bathing can help trap that moisture that is still on the skin. Avoidance of substances that may irritate your skin is also key: things like harsh soaps, and skin products and detergents that contain fragrance.

Topical anti-inflammatory medications can be used to temporarily reduce inflammation, redness, and itching. Antihistamines can aid in reducing itching and scratching. For more resistant eczema, longer term medications can be used like Eucrisa ® (crisaborole) or Dupixent ® (dupixent) to calm the immune system. And for more severe cases, immune modulating medications can be considered to calm inflammation in the skin.

Eczema can affect everyone is unique ways. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Schuering for evaluation and to determine a plan best catered to you.

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