Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a chronic itchy condition of the skin. Itching occurs because of a decreased ability of the skin to retain moisture leading to dry skin. Dry skin itches. Itchy skin gets scratched over and over until the skin is injured and a rash appears. That’s why rather than calling eczema the rash that itches, we call it the “itch than rashes”. The key to controlling the rash of eczema is to control itching. To control itching we restore moisture to the skin and slow down further losses.
The same problem in the skin that makes it prone to lose moisture makes the skin more vulnerable to infections caused by bacteria, viruses and molds. Molecules of food that land on the skin may find their way into the deeper layers where the immune system may mistake them for infectious agents. Allergists currently believe this is how most food allergies begin. It is more often the case that eczema triggers food allergy but up to one third of infants and children who have eczema will improve by eliminating one or more foods from their diet.
Eczema usually begins in infancy or early childhood but can appear at any age. While eczema often becomes milder or even resolves with time it can also persist throughout life. Eczema will vary intensity over time. Flares ups of eczema are linked to allergen exposure, weather changes, stressful life situations, and neglecting the stick with your eczema treatment regimen.
Eczema treatment consists of one or more of the following (1) adding moisture (rehydrating) to the skin (2) applying creamy or oily emollients to temporarily assist the skin in retaining moisture (3) avoiding allergens and skin irritants (4) insuring sufficient levels of vitamin D in the body and (5) applying anti-inflammatory medications both steroid-based and non-steroid based to itchy rashes. For severe eczema treatments such as wrapping with wet clothes, ultraviolet light exposure and injections of specific monoclonal antibodies are employed and can be very effective.
We can help diagnose and rate the severity of your itchy rash, identify triggers, teach you how best to treat the condition, and provide care appropriate to the level of your eczema.