Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an itchy, uncomfortable skin condition characterized by crusty patches that weep. For some individuals, the condition is chronic, meaning they must find ways to control it throughout their life. For others, it appears only during childhood.
Eczema is associated with triggers. Things like climate changes or a new lotion can be enough to cause a flare-up. Once active, the condition is prone to infection and can be disabling if left untreated.
It is unknown why some people get eczema while others never do. It seems to run in families, so genetics play a role. There are a number of theories out there about what causes this skin condition.
There is some evidence that allergies and asthma may be linked to eczema. Chronic exposure to hand washing like a healthcare worker faces is another risk factor.
Treatments depend on how persistent the condition is, because controlling flare ups is a major factor. The doctor will start by treating the current outbreak if there is one. That includes prescribing creams that help repair the skin and reduce the inflammatory response. These same drugs will control the itching and cut down the number of flare ups.
The doctor may put you on a treatment to control infection, as well. Eczema leaves the skin open to infection, especially if you scratch. Oral antihistamines can help manage the itching, too.
Treatment options such as light therapy have proven effective for adults. The doctor may counsel you on stress management, as well. Stress is a known trigger for eczema.
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