Eczema treatment

Eczema covers a range of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked.

I have a question about private eczema treatment

What is eczema?

Eczema causes the skin to become irritated, dry and cracked. There are several different forms of eczema, with different symptoms and causes; atopic eczema is the most common form.

Eczema describes a wide range of conditions that cause dry, irritated and itchy skin. Eczema can be severe with forms including:

  • Atopic eczema is the most common form, usually occurring in areas where there are folds of skin. This includes areas such as the hands (especially the fingers), the inside of the elbows and knees, on the side of the neck, and around the ears and eyes
  • Contact dermatitis, which occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance (irritant or allergen)
  • Varicose eczema usually affects the lower legs and is caused by circulation problems in the veins of the leg
  • Seborrhoeic eczema causes red, scaly patches to develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, scalp and ears
  • Dyshidrotic eczema (pompholyx) causes small blisters on the palms of the hands
  • Discoid eczema occurs in oval patches on the skin

Eczema patients often have a family history of eczema and may also suffer from allergies, with the condition being experienced alongside hay fever or asthma for example. Eczema is more common in children but can affect people of all ages.

For children, eczema will usually get better over time, with or without treatment. However, for adults, particularly with severe eczema, ultra-violet treatment or eczema medication may be required to relieve symptoms. This may be available through your GP or our Consultant Dermatologists.

What causes eczema?

The exact cause of atopic eczema, the most common form of eczema, is not fully understood. It is not usually caused by just one factor and atopic eczema is usually closely associated with allergies (atopic means ‘sensitive to allergens’).

For patients, symptoms of atopic eczema frequently have specific triggers (the weather for example, or soaps, detergents, stress or certain foods). Diet or lifestyle can therefore affect your symptoms and the severity of the condition.

What are the symptoms of eczema?

The symptoms of eczema vary from person to person. If you have mild eczema, you might only have small areas of dry skin that itch occasionally. More severe eczema can cause inflamed skin all over the body and you may find you’re constantly itching.

This can make it difficult to sleep, make your skin bleed, and cause secondary infections. If you have any of the following symptoms of an infection, you should see your GP as soon as possible:

  • Fluid oozing from your skin
  • Your skin develops a yellow crust or small yellowish-white spots
  • Your skin is swollen and sore
  • You feel hot and shivery or have a high temperature

What are the treatments for eczema?

Self care

As well as the treatments mentioned above, there are things you can do yourself to help ease your symptoms and prevent further problems. 

  • Avoid too much itching
  • Try not to scratch – rub your fingers on the itchy skin instead
  • Keep your nails short and clean to minimise damage to your skin
  • Keep your skin covered with light clothing to reduce skin damage

Avoid triggers

  • Avoid using soaps or detergents that might irritate affect your skin
  • Avoid fabrics which irritate your skin; stick to soft, fine-weave clothing or natural materials such as cotton
  • If heat makes your eczema worse, keep your house cool

Use an emollient or eczema ointment

Emollients are moisturising treatments which you can apply directly to your skin. They cover your skin with a protective film and reduce water loss – which helps manage the dry and scaly skin associated with eczema. They’re also a mild anti-inflammatory which can reduce redness and the number of flare ups you have.

Your Pharmacist or GP will be able to advise which is the best emollient for your eczema. For example, dyshidrotic eczema cream might be different from cream or treatment prescribed for contact dermatitis.

Topical corticosteroids

If your skin is sore and inflamed, your GP may prescribe a topical corticosteroid (applied directly to your skin), which can reduce the inflammation quickly.

Topical corticosteroids or other steroid creams for eczema can be prescribed in different strengths, depending on the severity of your atopic eczema and the areas of skin affected.

Prescription steroid cream for eczema is only available from your GP as the effects of steroids can vary for each individual.

Antihistamines 

Antihistamines are a type of medicine that can help relieve the itching associated with atopic eczema.

Bandages and wet wraps

In some cases, your GP may prescribe medicated bandages, clothing or wet wraps to wear over areas of skin that are affected by eczema.

These can either be placed over emollients or with topical corticosteroids to prevent scratching, allow the skin underneath to heal, and stop it drying out.

See a dermatology specialist

If your GP isn’t sure what type of eczema you have, or if the treatments mentioned above aren’t controlling your eczema, they can refer you to our Consultant Dermatologists. Our experts will be able to arrange tests, review your current treatment and suggest other treatments which may be more effective.

Our Consultant Dermatologist

Dr Ayerst

Kurt Ayerst

Dermatologist

Dr Ayerst's specialties include skin cancer management, complex medical dermatology, male genital dermatology and dermascopy.

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