It's important to take care of your skin if you have eczema, and not
just to heal the dry, itchy red patches caused by this condition. Eczema,
also called atopic dermatitis, can be related to a host of other health issues.
"People who have eczema are at risk of developing heart disease, allergies
or asthma, in part because the inflammation triggering eczema flare-ups
may affect other parts of the body as well," says
Phillip Cecchini, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
Mission Heritage Medical Group. "The itching can intensify at night, which can keep you awake, and
disrupted sleep can lead to physical and emotional issues. Too much scratching
can cause the skin to become raw and break, making you susceptible to
infections. And living with eczema can be stressful, causing depression
Proper eczema treatment is important--both to control the immediate effects
of flare-ups on raw, dry skin, and also to take care of your health over
the long term. Dr. Cecchini offers the following tips to keep skin in
the best possible shape:
Avoid your eczema triggers. "Certain factors can lead to flare-ups, including allergens, irritants
such as harsh detergents, stressful situations and cold weather that can
dry out skin," Dr. Cecchini says. "Figure out your triggers
and how you can avoid them if possible, such as buying a new brand of
soap or learning stress management techniques such as deep breathing."
Know the right way to bathe. "Hot water can be drying for skin, so soak in a bath or shower with
warm water," Dr. Cecchini says. "For baths, you can add baking
soda or oatmeal for extra softening. Soap should be as gentle and natural
as possible, without irritants such as fragrances. As soon as you're
done, moisturize the skin while it's still damp so it doesn't
dry out and exacerbate your eczema. You may even need to moisturize twice
a day, depending on the condition of your skin."
Use medicated creams. "Some over-the-counter ointments, such as hydrocortisone cream, can
be used for milder flare-ups," Dr. Cecchini says. "For more
severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medicated cream, such as topical
corticosteroids. Different creams do different things--some relieve itching,
while others guard against infection, for instance."
Don't scratch that itch. "Scratching the skin may bring relief in the moment, but it can prevent
skin from healing and open you up to bacteria that could cause an infection,"
Dr. Cecchini says. "Cover the area with a bandage or wet compress
so you're less tempted to itch."
Cocoon yourself in cotton. Scratchy fabrics, such as wool, and too-tight clothes can irritate skin.
Cotton and other soft fabrics let skin heal.
Keep cool indoors. Hot air can leach moisture from the skin. Humidifiers can help set an
Talk with your doctor about other remedies. There are a number of options out there for eczema treatment, ranging
from acupuncture and supplements, to petroleum jelly, coconut oil,
phototherapy, in which UVB light is used to treat inflammation and ward off bacteria.
Learn more about
Dr. Cecchini. Learn more about
Mission Heritage Medical Group.