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How to Identify and Treat Eczema (Eczema)
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How to Identify and Treat Eczema

J. Bergman, MD, FRCPC and D. R. Thomas, MD, FRCPC

Eczema can refer to a variety of skin conditions where the skin becomes red and irritated. Sometimes the skin will form small bumps or blisters. The most common type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis, which has a hereditary factor. If your family members have this condition, you are more likely to develop this condition. Atopic dermatitis tends to develop early, often in the first two years of life, and often clears later. For more information, visit www.eczemaguide.ca.

Symptoms are varied, but the skin is always dried and itchy in eczema. Rashes generally occur on the folds of the skin, such as the bend of the elbows, or at the back of the knees. They can also be found the side of the neck and the earlobes in children. Rashes are often red and scaly, with the surrounding skin becoming dry, and infections in the affected area are common for severe cases. The symptoms of eczema generally first appear during childhood or even infancy, and tend to dissipate or become milder later in life.

Any potential irritants to the skin are amplified for those with eczema. Common irritants can include perfume, or products containing scents, soaps, bubble baths, detergents, and fabric softeners. Bathing too often can also dry the skin, making the skin more prone to rashes and cracking. Various food allergies, and other environmental factors such as pet hair, dander, and dust mites can also trigger flare-ups. Any skin condition can also cause eczema. A person with eczema must be more conscientious than others about avoiding potential triggers and irritants to the skin.

These are some tips to help your eczema condition:

1.    Avoid foods that flare up your condition. If you are unsure, visit an allergist who can determine any triggers with a patch test.
2.    As best as possible, avoid potential environmental triggers. They can include contaminated air, dust, pet hair, or dust mites.
3.    Avoid hot baths or bathing too often as it can remove moisture from the skin, making it prone to rashes and itching.
4.    Avoid products that include perfume or fragrances as these are often irritants to the skin.
5.    Use a mild cleanser.
6.    Use a moisturizer, especially after showering or bathing.
7.    Use in-shower moisturizers.
8.    Antihistamines can also help the skin.
9.    Use the prescribed medications such as hydrocortisones on the affected area.
10.  Mild soap or non-soap cleansers such as  Cetaphil®, Spectroderm®, Spectrojel®, and plain white Dove® are useful alternatives to more irritating cleansing methods. For more information on mild cleansers, visit www.mildcleanser.ca.

Moisturizers are a critical part of effective skin care. Moisturizing should be a regular part of your skincare routine, and applied after every shower, within five minutes of bathing when your skin is still wet. Thick and greasy creams such as Aquaphor® ointment, Vaseline® Petroleum Jelly, unscented cold cream, Eucerin® cream, Cetaphil® cream, Cliniderm® cream are helpful in keeping the skin moisturized and protected. Also recommended are in-shower moisturizers such as Olay Ribbons®.

Finally, know that eczema is an extremely common skin condition. Medical treatments are available and plentiful. Visit your doctor and control your eczema. For more information, visit www.eczemaguide.ca.
 

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