Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis): Definition, Treatment and Symptoms

Eczema - Definition, Treatment and Symptoms

Atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition that causes itchiness and redness. Eczema affects roughly 9 to 30 percent of adults and children respectively in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Although this condition has no cure, there are several ways to relieve symptoms and manage flare-ups with medicated skin products and self-care measures. 

Causes of Eczema

The exact cause of eczema has not been determined, but there are several factors that are thought to contribute to it including having dry skin, immune system problems, family history, bacterial superinfection, and certain environmental factors.  Children are far more likely to develop eczema if one or both parents are affected. 

Signs and Symptoms of Eczema

Common signs and symptoms of eczema include itching, patches of reddish or brownish skin, tiny raised bumps, and skin with a scaly, thickened or cracked appearance. The exact symptoms that each individual experiences can vary. Itching may be worse at night in some individuals.  Red or brown patches develop on different areas of the skin including the upper chest, elbows, ankles, hands, and eyelids. Scratching the affected areas may cause the skin to leak fluid and become crusty. The skin may become swollen and have a raw appearance from scratching. 

Symptoms typically begin to appear around the age of 5. While eczema fades over time for some individuals, others may have persistent disease with flare-ups for years.  Others develop other conditions such as asthma or hay fever. 

Risk Factors for Eczema

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing eczema. These include having a family history of eczema or conditions associated with eczema such as hay fever or allergies. Other risk factors include living in urban areas or living in dry climates. 

Complications of Eczema

Although eczema is a chronic condition, it can be managed effectively so that more serious complications can be avoided. Some of these include secondary skin infections due to scratching that breaks the skin, asthma, hay fever, and chronic discolored and thickened skin from frequent rubbing and scratching. Those with eczema on the eyelids are also at risk of developing ocular complications such as eyelid inflammation and watery eyes. Sleep disturbances and poor sleep quality can also develop if itching is severe or persistent. Other complications include allergic contact dermatitis and irritant hand dermatitis from frequent exposure to water and harsh cleaning products. 

Diagnosing Eczema

An eczema diagnosis is usually based on a physical examination of the affected areas, a review of the patient’s medical history, and the use of patch tests or other types of skin tests to rule out other skin conditions. Patients should provide doctors with detailed information on when symptoms occur or worsen which can help determine the types of materials or environmental conditions that lead to flare-ups. 

Treatments and Remedies for Eczema

Although no cure exists for eczema, individuals with this skin condition can manage symptoms and lower the risk of flare-ups in several ways. Some types of medications prescribed by doctors can help relieve symptoms. These include corticosteroid creams and other creams that reduce inflammation and itching, creams that affect the immune system to better control eczema flare-ups, and anti-inflammatory drugs that are taken orally or injected. These medications can be effective at managing eczema, but they are associated with the risk of side effects and can only be used for short periods of time. 

CLn® BodyWash was created by physicians as an easy-to-use method of helping patients with eczema. CLn® products are intended to deliver the benefits of a bleach bath, which is commonly recommended for eczema, in a gentle, cosmetically elegant cleanser that is clinically proven to improve skin prone to eczema, infection, acne, and other skin conditions.

Other Treatment Methods

Other ways of managing eczema include placing wet dressings covered with corticosteroids on the affected skin, exposing skin to ultraviolet light, and undergoing counseling to manage stress which can reduce flare-ups. 

Making certain lifestyle changes and following self-care measures can also decrease the eczema relapses.  This includes moisturizing skin twice a day to reduce dryness, taking warm baths, using a humidifier to keep indoor air more humid, and applying nonprescription anti-itch creams to affected areas.

Managing Eczema Flare-Ups

Avoiding materials or other items that trigger flare-ups such as harsh soaps, synthetic fibers, certain perfumes, dust, sand, and cigarette smoke can help reduce symptoms of eczema. Individuals can determine what causes flare-ups by carefully keeping track of when they occur and what they were exposed to when symptoms appear. 

Other ways to prevent flare-ups include gently patting skin dry after bathing rather than rubbing, and taking short baths and showers. Using tested, over-the-counter products that are gentle on skin, such as CLn® BodyWash,  can also help. The CLn® products use sodium hypochlorite to help reduce the symptoms of eczema and other skin conditions by lowering the amount of bacteria on the skin and diminishing inflammation.