Eczema affects about 3% of adults and children, and about 10-20% of infants in the United States. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, atopic eczema (the most common type of eczema) now affects between 9 – 30% of the U.S. population and is more common in young children and infants.
The diagnosis of eczema should be made by a medical doctor. Since the cause of eczema is often allergy related, your physician may perform allergy tests to assess what triggers the irritation so a more precise treatment plan can be developed.
Treating eczema requires a consistent approach. There are over the counter treatments and natural remedies that can relieve the condition and help prevent the eczema from flaring up, however, the the main goal of most treatment plans is to relieve the itching, since excessive itching can lead to infection. Treatment may take months to show signs of improvement, but consistency is essential, even if the symptoms subside and there is no longer any sign of lesions.
In some cases, eczema should be treated by a physician. You should call your doctor if the inflammation does not respond to over the counter treatments; you develop pus-filled blisters over existing patches of eczema; you develop small blisters in the area of the eczema; you are exposed to someone with a viral disease such as cold sores during a flare-up (this puts you at risk of contagion).
Over the Counter and Prescription Treatments
Over the counter products such as antihistamines to reduce severe itching, and hydrocortisone 1% creams and ointments to reduce the inflammation, are common treatments for eczema.
For more severe cases, prescription strength creams and ointments containing corticosteroids can be prescribed to reduce inflammation. In the case of infected eczema, antibiotics may be prescribed to clear the infection.
For stubborn cases, or cases that are not responding the traditional treatments, drugs such as Cyclosporine, Azathioprine or Methotrexate can be prescribed, as well as chemical tar treatments to reduce itching.
There are two topical creams approved by the FDA, designed to prevent flare-ups. However, these creams, Protopic and Elidel , alter the immune system and come with the FDA’s strongest warning (a ‘black box’ warning) due to concerns regarding the possible risk of cancer. Before considering either of these options, you should discuss the risks with your physician.
Phototherapy – Phototherapy exposes a patient to ultraviolet (UV) light for a controlled amount of time and may be prescribed to treat moderate to severe eczema. When prescribed, phototherapy is likely to be part of a total treatment plan. The benefits of phototherapy vary from person to person, but it can:
- Improve, and even clear, eczema.
- Help prevent bacterial infections, common in the skin of patients with eczema.
- Reduce the strength of topical corticosteroids required, and in some cases, eliminate the need for topical corticosteroids.
There are risks associated with Phototherapy.
UV light is known to contribute to the cause of skin cancer, and UV light has been proven to prematurely age the skin.
Natural Remedies and Homeopathic Treatments
Eczema is a systemic disorder affecting the skin – it is a sign of toxins or a toxic reaction resulting in a rash. Natural treatment plans focus on balancing the body from the inside, and controlling the symptoms from the outside to manage the eczema.
Diet – eliminate and avoid foods that trigger the rash. Each person may have different food-triggers. Some common food triggers are coffee, spicy food, dairy products, wheat, nuts, tropical fruits, seafood, red meat, alcohol. If you don’t know what your food triggers are, keep a diary and track reactions related to the intake of foods and drinks.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements – Eczema may be a symptom of an Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Vitamin B7 (Biotin) plays an important role in the production of fatty acids which are essential for healthy skin. Other vitamins, minerals and supplements that can help control the symptoms of Eczema are:
- Vitamin A – reduces scaling
- Vitamin B complex – essential for healthy skin and cell growth
- Vitamin C – a natural antihistamine to calm the allergy
- Vitamin D – essential for healthy skin
- Vitamin E – improves and aids healing
- Zinc – helps clear rashes
- Omega-3 fish oil – reduces inflammation
- Omega-6 oil – reduces itching and encourages healing
- Evening Primrose – reduces itching and encourages healing
Salt Bath – help heal damaged skin with a Dead Sea Salt Bath
For more information on how to treat Eczema natrually – read this article from ToxicBeauty
Preventing or Controlling Flare-ups
Finally, a word on how to prevent or control the onset of flare-ups associated with eczema. Outbreaks can sometimes be avoided or controlled if you:
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity
- Avoid overheating and sweating
- Avoid course fabrics such as wool – seek out natural, non-irritating fabrics
- Avoid harsh detergents, solvents and soaps
- Moisturize often – this helps retain the skin’s natural moisture
- Avoid foods that may trigger a reaction (learn what your trigger foods are)
- Avoid stress
- The Disc-like Lesions of Nummular Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Dyshidrotic Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema on the Face (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Skin Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema in Infants and Children (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema Cream – Four Top Rated Eczema Creams That Work (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Eczema Photos (healthyskinsolutions.com)
Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide; Eczema
National Institutes of Health: U.S. Library of Medicine: Eczema
Balch, James F., Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Second Edition.
American Academy of Dermatology’s EczemaNet Website. Phototherapy.