Eczema is a general term that describes several different conditions in which skin is inflamed, red, scaly, and itchy. Eczema is a common skin condition, and atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema) is one of the most common forms of eczema.
1. What causes Atopic Eczema?
The cause of atopic eczema is not known, but the condition often affects people with a family history of allergies. Many individuals with eczema also have hay fever and/or asthma or have family members with those conditions. Some factors can trigger a flare-up of eczema or make eczema worse, but they do not cause the condition. Eczema triggers include stress, skin irritants (including soaps, skin care products, or some fabrics), allergens, and climate/environment.
2. What are the symptoms of Atopic Eczema?
The appearance of eczema can vary from person to person. In adults, eczema occurs most frequently on the hands and elbows, and in "bending" areas such as the inside of the elbows and back of the knees. In young children, eczema is often seen on the elbows, knees, face, neck, and scalp. Signs and symptoms of atopic eczema include:
• Skin redness
• Dry, scaly, or crusted skin that might become thick and leathery from long-term scratching
• Formation of small, fluid-filled blisters that might ooze when scratched
Infection of the areas where the skin has been broken
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3. How is Atopic Eczema treated?
Atopic eczema can be treated with medications, including over-the-counter creams and ointments containing the steroid hydrocortisone (for example,Cortizone-10, Cort-Aid, Dermarest Eczema, Neosporin Eczema). These products may help control the itching, swelling, and redness associated with eczema. Prescription-strength cortisone creams, as well as cortisone pills and shots, are also used for more severe cases of eczema.
4. How is Atopic Eczema treated?
For people with mild-to-moderate eczema, topical immunomodulators (TIMs) can help. TIMS -- including brand name products Protopic andElidel -- work by altering the body's immune response to allergens, preventing flare ups. However, in 2005, the FDA warned doctors to prescribe Elidel and Protopic with caution due to concerns over a possible cancer risk associated with their use. The two medications have an FDA "black box" warning on their packaging to alert doctors and patients to these potential risks. The warning advises doctors to prescribe short-term use of Elidel and Protopic only after other available eczema treatments have failed in adults and children over the age of 2. Phototherapy is another treatment that helps some people with eczema. The ultraviolet light waves found in sunlight have been shown to benefit certain skin disorders, including eczema.
5. Can Atopic Eczema be prevented?
Currently, there is no effective strategy for preventing atopic eczema, but the symptoms of the condition can improve. To improve the signs of eczema:
• Reduce stress
• Avoid scratchy materials (for example, wool) and chemicals such as harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents
• Moisturize frequently
• Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity
• Avoid situations that cause sweating and overheating