Eczema and Treatments

The meaning of the word “eczema” can cause confusion. Many people use this word to refer to a common skin condition called atopic dermatitis. When this is the meaning, the words “eczema/atopic dermatitis” may be used.

The word “eczema” also has a more general meaning. Eczema can mean a family of skin conditions that causes the skin to become swollen, irritated, and itchy.

Many skin conditions are considered a type of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is one type. Other types include hand dermatitis, nummular dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Dandruff is a mild type of seborrheic dermatitis. Diaper rash and the rash that many people get after coming into contact with poison ivy are other types of eczema.

What happens if I have eczema?

If the diagnosis is eczema, the dermatologist will explain what type of eczema you have and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

Before prescribing a treatment plan, a dermatologist considers the type of eczema, extent and severity of the eczema, patient’s medical history, and a number of other factors. Medication and other therapies will be prescribed as needed to:

* Control itching
* Reduce skin inflammation
* Clear infection
* Loosen and remove scaly lesions
* Reduce new lesions

It is important to realize that in most cases no one treatment will be effective. Medical research continues to show that the most effective treatment plan for eczema — regardless of type — involves using a combination of therapies to treat the skin and making lifestyle changes to control flare-ups. Doing so tends to increase effectiveness and reduce side effects from medications.

The type of medication prescribed will depend on many factors, including the type of eczema, past treatment, and the patient’s preference. Topical (applied to the skin) medication is frequently prescribed. If the eczema is more severe, phototherapy (a type of treatment that uses light therapy) or systemic (circulates throughout the body) medication may be prescribed.

Today, there are many effective therapies available to treat the different types of eczema. With proper treatment, most eczema can be controlled.

Keep in mind that eczema can be stubborn. If the signs and symptoms persist, be sure to tell your dermatologist. Sometimes it helps to change how you use the medications or to set aside more time for relaxing activities. Stress triggers flare-ups in many people. Others find relief with stronger medication. Keeping a diary to learn what triggers the eczema and avoiding these triggers helps others. A dermatologist can work with you to tailor a treatment plan that meets your needs.

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