Eczema is a problem with the skin, is a defect in the top layer of the skin that makes it hard for the skin to hold onto moisture. Eczema makes skin more sensitive. Eczema can make skin look red and feel sore and itchy, so people want to scratch.

Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the skin that most likely has a genetic link. Telltale signs of eczema include dry, itchy, cracked skin on the feet, arms, ankles, face and chest. Scratching areas where eczema appears can make things worse, causing blisters or thickening of the skin. Eczema is usually treated with hydrocortisone topical creams, light therapy, antihistamines or medications that suppress the immune system.

Eczema affects 10% to 20% percent of children and 1% to 3% percent of adults. About 60% of children with eczema will get it before age 1, and at least 80% will develop it before age 5. Most people will outgrow eczema during childhood. Still, eczema can flare up during puberty or adulthood.

An estimated 15 million people in the United States have some form of eczema. Also known as atopic dermatitis, this condition causes an itchy, red, cracked, scaly rash that can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly on the arms and the backs of the knees, as well as on the hands, feet, face and neck. It is hereditary and often occurs in individuals who suffer asthma or hay fever. Dry skin, certain soaps and bathing too frequently worsen the condition; moisturizers and humid air may improve it. Adults may get a form called nummular eczema, which tends to be scaly, coin-shaped spots on the arms and legs.

Unlike a common rash that gradually goes away, eczema is a persistent condition that results in red, irritated and itchy skin. Continuous scratching may cause infected yellow crusts or bumps on the skin.

Eczema is not contagious but can be uncomfortable both physically and emotionally for children. Children typically outgrow the condition by adolescence, although some people may have it throughout their lives. Parents can take steps to relieve symptoms using topical solutions, antibiotics and other practical strategies.

There are several types of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form. Other types include:

  • allergic contact eczema, caused by touching something that you are allergic to, such as poison ivy
  • contact eczema, caused by touching something irritating like a certain product or detergent
  • dyshidrotic eczema, which causes irritation and blisters on hands and feet
  • neurodermatitis, which causes patches of extreme itch
  • nummular eczema, which causes crusty, scaly spots
  • seborrheic eczema, which causes scaly patches on the face or scalp
  • stasis dermatitis, which affects lower legs and is often caused by a blood flow problem

Ask anyone who has had to contend with eczema and they’ll tell you that their itchy and scratchy symptoms are just as unpleasant.

Treatment breakthroughs
There are two medications that can be very effective for some people. According to information coming from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting:

  • Crisaborole, the first anti-inflammatory medication approved for treatment of mild to moderate AD in over 15 years, is an ointment that reduces itching, redness and swelling. It’s for anyone two or older. A PDE-4 (phosphodiesterase 4) inhibitor, it tamps down immune system reactions that trigger inflammation and stimulates changes in the cells on the outer layer of skin.
  • Dupilumab is an injectable monoclonal antibody for folks 18-plus for whom other medications aren’t suitable or don’t work. It blocks interleukins 4 and 13, two cytokines associated with allergic inflammation.

In addition to medications and therapies prescribed by a healthcare provider, treatment for atopic dermatitis usually involves a number of lifestyle changes to soothe irritated skin, minimize exposure to environmental factors that trigger flare-ups and ease the emotional burden of living with the condition.


Ask your doc if either of these is right for you. We hope so, ‘cause it would be great to scratch eczema off your list of difficult-to-treat irritations and conditions.


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