Eczema: Atopic Dermatitis Treatment

  • Treatment

    Immediately consult a physician if eczema sores appear to be infected, or are accompanied by a fever.

    The main goal of eczema care is to minimize outbreaks and alleviate symptoms. Self-care approaches or eczema include the following strategies:

    • Do not scratch eczema sores.
    • To help children avoid scratching, be sure to keep their fingernails short.
    • When caring for infants with eczema, place mittens on their hands at night to keep them from scratching eczema lesions.
    • Take a room-temperature bath to sooth itchy skin, and then apply ointments within three minutes to help retain the skin’s natural moisture. Try to take less frequent baths.
    • For severely dry skin, use a wet body wrap to force moisture back into the skin. For example, wrap a dry face with wet gauze and cover it with a dry elastic bandage, or cover dry hands and feet with wet socks then a pair of dry socks.
    • When wearing wet wraps, be sure to stay warm, and apply moisturizer immediately afterward.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    Coal tar baths are sometimes used to soothe eczema.

    A coal tar emulsion can be added to a lukewarm bath for rash, follicle irritation, and patches of thickened skin. A person with eczema can bathe in this solution once over 1 to 3 days for a total of 30 to 45 days.

    Phototherapy with ultraviolet light can be a very effective treatment for eczema. Phototherapy appears to decrease itching, and it may also lessen the tendency of the skin to carry Staphalococcus bacteria. Phototherapy is given in a clinical setting under a doctor’s supervision. It works much the same as a tanning salon. The difference is that the purpose is not for getting a tan—you should stay under the lamps just until the skin gets red.

    Patients with eczema may benefit from taking a daily zinc supplement. Vitamin A, which is needed for skin cell renewal, may also be beneficial. Some patients find benefit from oatmeal baths. However, these are expensive and should not substitute for other types of care, such as routine use of moisturizer.

    Herbal treatments such as Chinese remedies have been demonstrated to be useful in some studies.

    Pregnant women with eczema should speak with their doctors about the safest methods to treat the condition. Some of the medications recommended for treating eczema symptoms, including corticosteroids and topical coal-tar ointments, can be dangerous for pregnant women. Pregnant women or women who may become pregnant should work closely with their doctors to craft a safe treatment plan.

    Sometimes the rash of eczema can act as an entryway for viral infections such as herpes or human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. It is important to see a doctor for this condition because it is spread by contact with others. Herpes infection of eczema (eczema herpeticum) is marked by multiple small eroded blisters often with irregular borders. The herpes blisters can also appear in isolated patches.

    Most children with eczema grow out of the disorder by puberty. Some adults continue to have eczema, which is typically localized to a single area of the body such as the feet, the hands, or the eyelids. In most cases, self-care, over-the-counter medications, or prescription drugs can control symptoms of eczema.

    Because symptoms can quickly worsen and complications can arise, patients with eczema should be closely monitored. Possible complications associated with eczema include skin infections, thinning of the skin after prolonged corticosteroid use, and eczema herpeticum, an eczema complication associated with herpes infections.

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