What is eczema?

Eczema is the broad term for a group of medical conditions in which patches of skin become red, inflamed and rough. There are several types of eczematous skin conditions including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, and nummular dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. The term atopic applies to a group of diseases, often hereditary, that can lead to other allergic conditions, including hay fever and asthma.

Eczma is not contagious. You cannot “catch” this condition from another person.

Do you think you have eczema? You are not alone. Eczema is very common, affecting over 30 million Americans, including about 1 in 5 infants and about 3% of adults and children.

Why does eczema occur?

Although the precise cause of eczema is unknown, dermatologists believe it is linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to irritants. This triggers the symptoms of eczema.

Families with a history of allergies or asthma are more likely to experience eczema. An early diagnosis will help your dermatologist treat eczema most effectively, while reducing the risk of flare-ups.

How dermatologists diagnose eczema

Eczema can typically be diagnosed by a thorough skin examination. Your dermatologist will also go over your family’s medical history to determine if you or your child has an increased risk of developing eczema. Other questions you’ll probably be asked include how long you’ve had symptoms, and how often they occur, and any known triggers that cause your symptoms to flare.

How dermatologists treat eczema

While there is no cure for eczema, dermatologists use a variety of medications to control the symptoms and treat the skin rash. The treatment regimen is tailored to the location, severity and history of your particular condition.

Topical treatments include corticosteroid creams to heal your skin and control itching. Other medications used to manage eczema and atopic dermatitis are steroid-sparing, including calcineurin inhibitors and Eucrisa.

If you have a bacterial infection on the skin, your dermatologist may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to apply on the affected area or oral antibiotics in pill form.

Your dermatologist may prescribe injections of dupilumab in severe cases or if you are not responding to other treatments.

Part of your treatment plan may include therapies with medicated bandages applied to the skin.

Light therapy is another option where the skin is exposed to natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light for set periods.