Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis or winter’s itch, is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin. It is a skin disorder that can be associated with severe itch. It can affect all ages, and many parts of the body, such as arms, legs, eyelids, and hands.
Infants – face, scalp, torso, and extensor surfaces of arms/legs
Children/adults – flexural surfaces of arms/legs, hands
It is a skin disorder that many people may “grow out of”, however the condition may wax and wane for many years.
Although most patients have a genetic background that predisposes them to eczema, there are certain environmental triggers that can make it worse.
The winter brings with it dry air, which can dry the skin and worsen eczema.
Some people develop eczema after coming in contact with certain allergens – most commonly poison ivy, nickel in metals, preservatives, and fragrances.
Scratching can also make eczema worse. Most dermatologists describe it as the “itch-scratch cycle”, which can lead to a downward spiral because scratching the rash actually makes the itch worse.
Avoiding the triggers above can help prevent eczema, but we also have treatments to alleviate the disorder.
The most important first step in treatment is to understand that dry skin worsens eczema. People should avoid very hot showers, use a humidifier in the winter, and liberally use moisturizing creams and ointments.
The most common medication used by dermatologists is topical corticosteroids. These come in many different strengths and formulations, which include easy to apply lotions, and more moisturizing creams or ointments.
The stronger corticosteroid topical medications are not safe for certain areas, such as the face, armpits, and groin. There are alternative medications that are safe for these areas.
Sometimes the differences between the medication strengths and formulations can make all the difference in improving eczema safely and rapidly.
One of the newer products, Avene Xeracalm, is an emollient lotion that works specifically to soothe dry, itchy skin. Many patients have found relief using this in combination with Avene Thermal Spring Water, which was developed specifically for sensitive skin with a variety of inflamed conditions.
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