Eczema (also known as dermatitis) refers to a group of skin conditions that cause red scaly patches on the skin.  It is extremely common; the majority of people will experience some form of eczema in their lifetime

What Does Eczema Look Like?

Most types of eczema result in red, scaly patches on the skin.  Sometimes there is also cracking of the skin or blister formation.  Rashes can occur anywhere on the body's surface.

What Causes Eczema?

There are many types of eczema.  These include:

  • Atopic (familial) eczema
  • Eczema that results from skin irritation (dry skin, harsh soaps).  
  • Allergic eczema; allergic reactions to chemicals in our environment (poison ivy is an example of this type of eczema)
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (such as dandruff)
  • Nummular dermatitis (eczema that presents with round scaly patches)
  • Neurodermatitis (eczema that results from scratching or rubbing the skin)
  • Stasis dermatitis (eczema that results from poor circulation of the legs)

How is Dermatitis Treated?

  • Dermatitis is most commonly treated with topical corticosteroid creams or with topical immunomodulators
  • Ultraviolet light treatments (phototherapy) are sometimes used.  These can be used alone or in combination with medications
  • For cases that have not improved with other treatments, medications that suppress the immune system are sometimes used
  • If your dermatologist is concerned that you may be experiencing an allergic reaction, s/he may recommend a type of allergy testing known as patch testing

Are There any other Changes I can Make that Would be Helpful?

Yes!!  Proper skin care is of the utmost importance in individuals with eczema.  Consider following the following guidelines:

  1. Do not bathe or shower more than is necessary.  When bathing, use lukewarm water and very little soap.
  2. Avoid bar soaps.  Use liquid, soap-free cleansers instead
  3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!!  Apply a rich moisturizer twice per day.  The best time to apply a moisturizer is right after the bath or shower.
  4. Do not scratch.  Scratching makes the skin itchier and propagates the "itch-scratch" cycle
  5. Avoid fragrances (use fragrance-free body lotions, detergents and soaps).
  6. Cotton clothing is best.  Fabrics that are less breathable tend to lead to increased sweating and increased itch