Eczema is also called atopic dermatitis. It currently affects 10% to 20% of children and 13% of adults in the United States, and its prevalence there has more than doubled in the past three decades. The skin of a patient with eczema is sensitive and easily aggravated by environmental allergens and irritants. It is commonly said that it is the “itch that rashes” because the scratching of itchy skin causes redness, scaling, and thickening over time. The sites usually affected include the face of infants or the inner elbows and knees of older children.
Most patients with atopic dermatitis have symptoms within the first year of life, and almost 90% have symptoms by the age of 5. Eczema can often occur together with hay fever or asthma and is thought to be a familial, chronic disease. It is not contagious to other people.
The cause of eczema is unknown at this time. It is thought that an overactive immune response to normal environmental allergens may be the underlying cause. The natural course of atopic dermatitis is to improve or disappear as the patient ages. The primary treatment involves prevention, which includes avoiding or minimizing contact with known allergens. If eczema cannot be controlled with over-the-counter moisturizers and avoidance of allergens, it is important to see a Dermatologist to seek definitive diagnosis and treatment. With proper education about the condition and good skin care regimens, patients with eczema can be treated very effectively.
Options for treatment of eczema include:
- Moisturizing Lotions or Creams
- Cortisone Medications
- Other Topical Prescriptions
- Light therapy
- Systemic Medication (e.g. Dupixent)