Eczema is a form of dermatitis, which is an umbrella term dermatologists use to describe skin problems commonly associated with dryness, redness and itchiness. Below is a general overview of what causes eczema and how to treat it.
What Is Eczema?
“This is a chronic, relapsing, itchy, scaly skin dermatitis that is usually associated with allergic rhinitis (runny nose), asthma and other allergies. There is a genetic predisposition and it is associated with a fillagrin gene mutation, a protein that is integral to creating a protective epidermal skin barrier. Without it, breaks in the skin allow for water loss, which leads to super-dry skin and increased sensitivity to physical and chemical irritants, because they can actually enter the top the layers of the skin. This leads to an increased skin sensitivity and increased likelihood of developing allergies. The skin becomes prone to bacterial (Staphylococcus aureusl) and viral (herpes) infections. It is most common in infants (cheeks, body, arms and legs). In children, it commonly affects the fold in the elbows and backs of the knees, and in adults, it often affects the hands,” explains Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist at Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills.
How To Treat Eczema?
“Treatment involves excellent moisturizing, and then short courses of topical steroids for acute, itchy flare-ups, and oral anti-itch medications. To help prevent flare-ups, keep the skin well-hydrated and irritant-free. Use non-soap cleansers that replace missing ceramides to the skin barrier (Cetaphil Restoraderm or CeraVe) or moisturizing soaps (Dove). Fragrance-free, thicker emollients creams and barrier greases (Vaseline, Aquaphor) can help maintain the skin barrier and help retain moisture. Use fragrance-free laundry detergents and try not to use dryer sheets, as the fragranced chemical sticks to the clothing and can get leached to the skin,” says Shainhouse.