Eczema is an allergic skin condition that often accompanies both nasal allergies and asthma, especially in children. For some people, it gets worse in cold weather, while in others (like me), summer is the worst time. One thing is for sure, though, when the symptoms spiral out of control, the discomfort becomes almost unbearable.
Our expert, Sloane Miller, did a great post explaining eczema and some of the ways to deal with it a couple of years ago. I recommend you read it before proceeding with my post. It's a great foundation.
In this post, though, I plan to talk a bit about prevention and then focus on the types of medical treatment that are available for getting eczematous skin back under control.
Prevention Is Always the Best Strategy
Any allergy is best dealt with by preventing it from becoming a problem in the first place. It's no different with eczema. If you know what triggers it and can avoid those things, then do so.
For instance, I'm allergic to wool, so I never wear wool clothing next to my skin. Sweating is another trigger, so I try to avoid hot, humid conditions as much as possible. Other people find that dry heat indoors during cold weather is a trigger, so they use a humidifier to keep their homes less dry.
Of course, the usual culprits such as animal dander, dust, pollen and mold can also be triggers for eczema, so try to keep your exposure to them to a minimum. Dry skin is a big trigger, so anything you can do to maintain good skin care is also a great help. Another of our experts, Dr. James Thompson, talks about dry skin care in this article.
Skin Creams for Eczema
Prevention is great, as long as you're vigilant and you stay on top of things. But if you're anything like me, sooner or later, the rash will appear, you'll scratch and make it worse, and before you know it, you need some kind of treatment.
Here are some of your choices:
Topical steroids. These are the old, tried and true, traditional treatment for eczema. They're also some of the most effective creams you can use. Cortisone formulas come in a variety of strengths and forms, including both creams and ointments. The lower strength formulas are available without a prescription. Topical steroids work well, but shouldn't be used for a long time as they can have side effects such as thinning of the skin, changes in skin pigmentation and absorption into the body.
Topical calcineurin inhibitors. This class of creams is one of the newer treatments for eczema. Examples are Elidel® and Protopic®. The great thing about these creams is that they are not steroids, so they do not have the troublesome side effects that steroid creams can have. They can even be safely used on the face and around the eyes.
If you suffer from eczema, definitely work on the prevention aspect, but also be prepared if and when you need to use medication to resolve your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about which approach will work best for your situation.