The Latest Knowledge on One of the World’s Most Common Skin Disorders
Affecting millions around the globe, eczema is one of the world’s most prevalent skin ailments, but many still have questions about its causes and latest treatments. What is known about eczema?
Eczema symptoms usually come in the form of a red, itchy rash. Eczema causes a rash that can look different for each person, but redness, swelling, and itching are common in all forms. This can appear on any area of the body, but the most common sites for eczema symptoms are areas of the body that bend, such as elbows, knees, wrists, or ankles. The most difficult eczema symptom to manage can be the intense itching, causing the sufferer to scratch the rash, in turn making the rash worse and leading to more inflammation and itching. Doctors call this the “itch-scratch cycle”.
Doctors do not yet know eczema’s causes, but many suspect that it is a combination of genetics and the environment. Asthma, allergies, and eczema are often found together and may run in families. People with celiac disease or other autoimmune diseases may also have higher rates of eczema. Exposure to tobacco smoke, environmental pollutants, and harsh chemicals are all known to trigger flare-ups.
What Are the Available Treatments for Eczema?
- Self-Care – While there is no eczema cure as of yet, there are many types of eczema treatments available. Developing a personalized self-care regimen can both help avoid flare-ups and treat them when they occur. No matter what triggers a person’s eczema or how they choose to manage it, having support is key, as high levels of stress can cause flare-ups.
- Home Remedies – Daily warm baths and regular applications of moisturizing creams without dyes or perfumes can help control dry skin and itching. Many commonly mentioned home remedies, such as sulfur treatment, bleach baths, or dietary supplements have been shown to have little scientific support. Anti-histamines have shown limited effects on eczema, but may help those suffering from a flare-up to sleep.
- Medical Treatments – For eczema that requires treatment by a doctor, topical anti-itching creams, like hydrocortisone, or topical immunosuppressants, like tacrolimus or pimecrolimus, may be prescribed. Many who do not respond to topical treatments may benefit from phototherapy, in which affected skin is exposed to a special UV light. The most severe cases can require oral or injected corticosteroids or immunosuppressant drugs.
- Diet – Eczema and diet are frequently connected. Many who suffer from eczema also have food allergies. Some common triggers for eczema in the diet are: dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat. A food diary can provide valuable information about potential food triggers. Your doctor may also decide that allergy testing is appropriate.
- Challenging Areas – Eczema on the hands can be particularly difficult to treat, since people frequently expose their hands to common eczema triggers such as soap and water, cleaning products, sweat, and varying temperatures. Many eczema sufferers find wearing gloves in addition to their moisturizing routine can protect their hands from harsh conditions that can trigger or worsen eczema rashes.