What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that produces dry, scaly patches and intense itching.

Scratching of the itchy skin results in red raised spots, thickened skin and open cuts. The intense itch also makes it difficult to sleep. Eczema flare-ups typically appear on the hands and feet, elbows, ankles, wrists, face and neck.

Eczema can affect children and adults, males and females and people of all races and ethnicities. About 1 in 10 children in the United States have eczema, and one-third of childhood cases are moderate to severe. Most cases of eczema begin in childhood, though it is possible to develop eczema for the first time as an adult.

Signs and Symptoms of Eczema

Symptoms of eczema vary from one person to another and can change as a person ages. Babies and young children generally have eczema on their elbows, knees, scalp and faces while older children and adults often have eczema on the hands, feet, arms, and the back of their knees.

Symptoms may include:

  • Dry, scaly patches
  • Small red bumps with drainage and scabbing
  • Skin thickening and cracking
  • Large areas of discoloration of your skin

Causes of Eczema

Scientists have found that eczema is most commonly caused by a genetic mutation that prevents your skin from protecting itself from allergens and irritants in the environment.

This gene is called filaggrin, and it plays an important role in maintaining our skin’s barrier, preventing moisture from getting out of our skin and preventing outside substances from getting into our skin.

People who have the genetic mutation don’t have a strong protective layer, which leads to:

  • Skin that is dry, itchy and painful
  • Skin that is sensitive and reacts to many skin care products
  • Higher risk of developing allergies to allergens that come in contact with the skin
  • Higher risk for getting a variety of skin and other infections

Eczema Treatments

There is no cure for eczema, but treatment can help protect the skin and control itching, inflammation and infection. Treatment for moderate to severe eczema requires a customized approach based on recognizing the nuances of patients’ clinical presentation, identifying triggers and common problems that accompany eczema.

Our comprehensive treatment strategy’s goal will be to:

  • Help restore the damaged skin barrier and decrease the inflammation using:
    • Topical steroid creams and calcineurin (T-cell) inhibitors are typically the first choice in anti-inflammatory treatments.
    • And, when topical creams are not strong enough, systemic treatments can be used to get better short-term control of the inflammation, like phototherapy.
    • Corticosteroid pills, liquids or injections.
    • Other immunosuppression medications.
  • Relieve the itch using:
    • Antihistamines: Antihistamines have long been used as the primary treatment for itch. While they do help patients sleep better through the night, there is little evidence that they actually reduce itch.
    • Other medications: There are a number of other medications that can treat the itch caused by eczema.
  • Prevent infection using:
    • Oral antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause infections. Always finish a prescription for antibiotics unless otherwise directed by your physician.