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Eczema Treatment

Of the many causes of eczema, atopic dermatitis is the most common. These conditions cannot be completely eliminated, but managing risk factors and exposures can reduce the chances of recurrence. Treatments include good skin care, topical medications and managing the triggers that cause flare-ups.

Last Modified: September 22, 2022
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How Is Eczema Treated?

The main goal in the treatment of eczema is reducing the risk of flare-ups through preventative and medical management. There are several types of eczema, and all require specific treatments to alleviate symptoms. However, since eczema results in itchy, inflamed skin, the main goal of treatment is to ease itching and pain.

Other goals of treatment include:
  • Lowering the risk of infection
  • Preventing eczema flare-ups
  • Preventing eczema from spreading or worsening
  • Keeping skin moist

While over-the-counter or at-home treatments often help with eczema symptoms, in more severe cases, it may be necessary to see a dermatologist for a skincare routine and any prescribed medications.

Baby eczema is a relatively common occurrence in infants. Although the cause of this condition is not known, many treatments are the same as those for adults, it’s essential to take your baby to their pediatrician or dermatologist as soon as you notice it, so they can begin treating your child’s eczema and prevent the condition from worsening.

Eczema Treatment Options

Your medical practitioner will tailor your treatment to your specific needs. Your doctor may prescribe different therapies depending on your age, medical history, type of eczema and how severe it is. For example, the recommended treatment for nummular eczema may differ from that prescribed for dyshidrotic eczema.

Some of the more common treatments for eczema include:
  • Hydrocortisone creams and ointments: These are the most popular eczema treatment for adults and children. When applied to the skin, they reduce inflammation, redness and heat, itch and bacteria on the skin.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: This treatment alters the immune system. The two most common types are tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream.
  • PDE4 inhibitors: Crisaborole is a more recent but effective addition to the list of nonsteroid topical therapies for people with mild to moderate eczema.
  • Barrier repair moisturizers: Available as pastes, ointments and sprays, they help maintain the skin's physical barrier, protect it from irritants and prevent skin from drying out.
  • Daily warm baths (not hot): Baths can help moisturize the skin and keep it clean. Avoid scrubbing. Use a gentle cleanser and moisturize immediately afterwards with an emollient or noncomedogenic moisturizer.
  • Bandaging or wet wrapping: This method can help protect the affected area, provide relief and ensure creams and medicated ointments are absorbed.
  • Anti-itch creams: Sold over the counter, they may relieve flare-ups and itching

Although you may obtain some treatments from your pharmacist, such as antihistamines for itching and skin products with moisturizing ceramides, most stronger steroid medications require a prescription.

How to Prevent Eczema Symptoms

Although eczema may not always be preventable, there are ways to help manage it and reduce the frequency of occurences. How you manage your flare-ups will depend on your personal eczema triggers. If you have food or environmental allergies, for example, avoiding allergens may help control eczema flare-ups.

Since stress can cause eczema flare-ups, it’s also important to try and manage your stress levels and get enough sleep. Wearing cotton or silk fabrics that are smooth, loose and breathable can help prevent flare-ups. Avoid heavily fragranced cosmetics or harsh cleaning or laundry products.

Applying moisturizer twice a day right after you shower can keep your skin moist. Your dermatologist may suggest a barrier cream that allows your skin to breathe while protecting it. Petroleum jelly can also protect sensitive skin.

Practicing good skin care can help control eczema. Your routine should include using fragrance-free, gentle cleansers, a mineral sunscreen and showering after physical activities to wash away sweat. There is no evidence to suggest that humidifiers help with eczema, but some people report they’ve helped ease symptoms that humidity can aggravate.

When to See a Doctor

See your dermatologist if you have an itchy, dry rash that is not clearing with topical anti-itch treatments such as non-prescription hydrocortisone cream, moisturizer, or calamine lotion. Seeing a doctor is especially important if the rash shows signs of infection, such as becoming weepy or crusty and inflamed.

Allergies are often why different types of eczema persist. Your doctor can refer you to an allergy specialist who will conduct testing to determine if you have an undiagnosed allergy. Monitoring your activities can help determine the triggers of your eczema flare-ups.

Eczema may be irritating and painful and can also be detrimental to your mental and emotional wellbeing. However, proper treatment can control its symptoms, so they don’t interfere with your daily activities.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.
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