What is eczema ?
Eczema or dermatitis represents irritation and inflammation of the skin. This may be triggered by dry skin, an irritant (e.g. harsh soap), or an allergen (e.g. poison ivy).
Who gets eczema ?
Both children and adults can have eczema. There are different types of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis, hand dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, etc. Often when children have eczema it does improve as they get older.
How do I know if I have it ?
It is often a pink rash with ill-defined borders. It can be very itchy or burn. There are typical areas on the body where eczema occurs, for e.g. in older children and adults with atopic dermatitis the eczema plaques are often in the folds of the elbows and knees. Given the different types of eczema, it is best to have it diagnosed by your dermatologist or other trusted health professional
How can I treat it ?
To treat eczema, it is important to hydrate your skin with a lotion or cream that is hypoallergenic and hydrating, e.g. one containing ceramides. It is also important to avoid any contact with irritants or potential allergens. Finally, for the pink inflamed skin, a topical steroid is often needed. The specific area of the body and the amount of inflammation present will dictate which strength topical steroid is needed. These should only be used on the rash, as they can cause thinning of the skin when used on normal skin over a prolonged period of time.
How can I prevent it ?
To prevent flares of eczema, it is very important to hydrate skin with a good moisturizer, even when eczema is not present at that time. Therefore, use of a hypoallergenic lotion or cream is advised after all showers or baths for those susceptible. Additionally, frequent use of these on the hands can prevent eczema break outs on the hands. Drinking plenty of water, to hydrate from the inside, may be helpful as well. Just as important as the above, is avoiding irritants which are often found in harsh or fragrant products.
When should I see a dermatologist about it ?
You can see a dermatologist for your eczema at any time, to treat it early and to get tips on avoiding future flares. It is particularly important to come in for this if it is not improving or resolving, or if you continue to get repeated bouts of it. If this is the case, it may not be eczema after all or may need a different therapeutic plan.
American Academy of Dermatology
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Complete Dermatology Of Virginia is a full service dermatology practice that provides general medical dermatology, dermatological surgery and cosmetic dermatology services to patients in the Northern Virginia area. Our experience allows us to quickly and accurately diagnose and treat problems affecting the skin hair and nails.
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