DermaTechRx Research Center has undergone extensive Eczema research to present our Eczema eguide to you free of charge. Our intention is to save you hours and hours of researching medical journals and encyclopedia entries. We hope you find this information helpful in learning about Eczema and how to treat eczema.
Diagnosis of Eczema on Skin
One of the ways to diagnose Eczema is to do tests to the affected areas of the skin. One such test for Eczema is called the patch test. If a contact allergy is suspected, then the allergen can be applied to a bandage and then placed on the skin. A bandage with nothing will be used as a control. Twenty-four to 48 hours later, the skin underneath will be examined. If the skin is red, swollen and irritated then it is assumed that the patient is most likely allergic to that irritant.
Very rarely a doctor may order a biopsy, which includes taking a sample of skin and examining it under the microscope. This is usually not necessary with the other methods of diagnosis, but it is worth mentioning for informative purposes.
Summary of Diagnosis Methods
- Most common is an examination of rash, with follow up on medical history, lifestyle, etc.
- Allergy tests, if the doctor thinks rash is allergic reaction
- Patch test, another allergy test, usually used to determine contact allergens.
- A biopsy is possible, but is very rare. Eczema can usually be diagnosed with the methods above.
Preventing Eczema Flare Ups
One of the most important things that people who suffer from eczema can do is to keep their skin moist. Eczema thrives on dry skin. There are lotions and ointments designed for those with very dry skin and can prevent eczema from returning or keep you from getting it in the first place.
Be careful with soaps, laundry detergents, cleaning products, perfumes and other cosmetics. They can irritate sensitive skin and make eczema worse, or initiate a flare up and never rub skin to dry, as this can irritate skin, again initiating a flare up or making eczema worse. A couple of options for soaps that don’t irritate eczema are plain yogurt, the probiotics can aid the rash, and soaps that are oil or fat based, super fatted goat’s milk soap are the best for use with eczema.
Diet and nutrition can also help in preventing an eczema flare up. One of the most common triggers for an eczema outbreak is a food allergy. So receive consulting with an allergist to determine the foods that you are allergic to and avoiding them, you can nearly eliminate eczema all together. Recently there has been some promising research from Germany that points to omega-3 oils can be beneficial for eczema. Theoretically if you can keep your skin moist with healthy fats, your eczema will treat.
Treatment of Eczema
While there is no cure for Eczema, there are a few types of medications that can relieve many of the common symptoms of Eczema. There are both traditional medical treatments and a couple of natural treatment options. Since Eczema is largely an allergic reaction to certain allergens, not all of these treatments may be effective, particularly in the case of the natural treatments. With all of these treatments if the Eczema doesn’t get better, or worsens discontinue and contact your doctor immediately.
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The most common traditional treatment for Eczema is a glucocorticoid, which is a type of corticosteroid. Many of these are in cream form and the mildest of doses is available over the counter. Stronger doses will require a prescription, and they have been shown to be effective in treating Eczema symptoms. Some of the side effects associated with corticosteroid use include skin atrophy, which means that skin can become thin and fragile. Long term use of corticosteroids have led to large amounts of the medication being absorbed through the skin and this can cause a problem called HPA Axis Suppression, which affects the adrenal system.
Another side effect is secondary infection. Because these medications, by nature, suppress the immune system, they can leave the user vulnerable to a bacterial or fungal infection.
For more severe cases, corticosteroid creams can be prescribed in higher doses by your doctor however may cause side affects. These will occasionally be accompanied by an oral corticosteroid as well, but only for the most severe cases. In all cases corticosteroids should only be used until the rash itself is suppressed. Once that has happened patients should move to a maintenance program, using other products, to avoid the side effects that accompany long term corticosteroid use.
Immunomodulators and Immunosuppressants
Immunomodulators were created after corticosteroids and may be more effective in some cases for treated Eczema. They work in a similar fashion to the corticosteroids; however the side effects are different. The FDA says that there is a risk of lymph node or skin cancer with these drugs, however many professional medical organizations disagree with this assessment. These are also a bit more expensive that corticosteroids, and only available by prescription.
Immunosuppressants are used in severe cases of eczema to completely suppress the immune response that is causing the eczema. This can have serious side effects however. As such patients must undergo regular blood tests to make sure the drug is doing what it should be without causing other problems. The most commonly used immunosuppressant in the US is prednisone, and is used for a variety of chronic illnesses.
Antibiotics can be prescribed for certain types of Eczema, particularly if the patient has an open wound from scratching. Scratching removes the protective layers of skin, and thus inviting infection, so the antibiotics would prevent secondary infections.
Antihistamines are frequently used to control the itch associated with Eczema. These are available in creams and in pill form. The most commonly available antihistamine is Benadryl and it is available over the counter. In more severe cases the doctor may prescribe a more potent antihistamine.
Neem, Tea Tree, Oregano, and Thyme
These herbs can be used to treat skin irritations. Each may be used in the same way, with similar effects, however some people may respond to some and not others. In the case of Neem, it can be used either in a powdered form, mixed with coconut oil or some other carrier oil, or ingested to receive it’s benefits. Neem is widely used in India for everything from repelling mosquitoes to treating skin ailments. Neem, along with Tea Tree, Oregano, and Thyme all share anti-fungal, anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
These essential oils should be mixed, rather potently, with a carrier oil and applied to the Eczema rash. The mixture will not only treat the rash, but it keeps the skin from being dry, which is an underlying cause to several types of Eczema. The dryness is also a main component in prevention and aftercare once the Eczema rash goes away. While effective in treating the symptoms of Eczema, Neem and Tea Tree oil, in such large doses, can be hazardous if ingested, and may cause serious reactions to children, or people with compromised immune systems.
Other Alternative Therapies
There are some other alternative therapies for Eczema. These include light therapy, which is using sunbathing, tanning beds, or a combination of a special substance called Psoralen and the light exposure to curb the effects of Eczema.
Another alternative therapy is sea salt baths, specifically dead sea salt. This can help clear the rash as the salt is thought to have antiseptic properties. In addition to salt baths, some alternative treatment specialists recommend oatmeal baths to relieve itching. These alternative therapies may help to relieve itch and dryness associated with Eczema, and they can be used in conjunction with other therapies. Also, the salt and oatmeal baths can be used even on the smallest babies with no side effects.
A Warning and Final Note
There is some evidence that people who suffer from Eczema should never get a smallpox vaccine or any other vaccine that contains live vaccinia virus. According to the CDC, there has been some evidence that people who do receive this vaccine can end up with a life threatening reaction.
As a note, this guide is meant to inform only. It is not design to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness and is not a replacement for common sense or a doctor’s treatment.