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Eczema

Eczema is a class term for a group of medical conditions causing the skin to be irritated or inflamed. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis which is common among young children and runs in a triad with allergies and asthma. Eczema (dermatitis) is a common condition where the skin is inflamed or irritated causing skin to lose water or have "transepidermal water loss" TEWP. Loss of water means that skin is dry and itchy. This can be caused by genetics (having genes that cause a predisposition to being easily irritated) or by some physical environmental cause (dry weather, chemicals, or allergies).

What Are the Symptoms?

Eczema is almost always itchy. Sometimes the itchiness can come before the rash, and eczema is fondly coined "the itch that rashes".

When eczema has been present for an extended period of time, the skin affected can change and become thicker, scaly, dry and discolored. In light skinned individuals, the discoloration can be pink/red then turn brown. In darker skinned individuals, the rash may make the skin darker in color or lighter in color.

What Causes Eczema?

The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it is thought to be a natural body reaction to an allergen or irritant. Sometimes stress, weather changes or illness can trigger eczema. Exposure to certain chemicals that cause irritation such as household cleaning products or acetone can cause an outbreak. Certain people are sensitive to pet dander and pollen, causing a flare.

Eczema is not contagious and can't be spread from person to person.

How Is Eczema Diagnosed?

Eczema is a clinical diagnosis made by a dermatologist. There are many other skin conditions that can look like eczema so it is best to be seen by your medical provider.

How Is Eczema Treated?

Improving the skin texture and removing allergens/triggers are the treatment of choice. Treatments normally entail relieving itchiness and removing causes of itchiness. Lotions, oils and creams can be used to keep the skin moist.

Over the counter produces for itchiness and skin relief can be used and in more severe cases, prescription creams and ointments can be used to reduce itchiness. Topical corticosteroids do not, however, repair the skin, they simply relieve the symptom of itch.

Oral medications such as antihistamines or antiinflammatories, tar treatments, or phototherapy can be used. There are also two FDA approved topical immunomodulators for mild to moderate eczema: Elidel and Protopic. Both should not be used in kids under age 2.

How Can Eczema Flares Be Prevented?

Moisturize often to avoid dry skin. Avoid stressful situations and coming into contact with irritating allergens. If you are itchy, do not scratch. This will make your rash worse.

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