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What is eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an itchy, red skin rash. You are more likely to have it if your parent or a family member has eczema, asthma, or hay fever. It is a long-term condition that may cause flare-ups for the rest of your life.

What are the signs and symptoms of eczema?

You may have patches of dry, red, itchy skin. You may also have bumps or blisters that crust over or ooze clear fluid. You may also have areas of your skin that are thick, scaly, or hard and leather-like.

What triggers eczema?

Anything that increases dryness or makes you want to scratch is a trigger. Triggers may cause eczema to flare up. The following are common triggers:

  • Frequent baths or showers can lead to dry, itchy skin.
  • Sudden temperature changes , such as cold air, dries your skin. Heat can increase sweating. Both can make you itch.
  • Allergens such as dust mites and pet dander can make your symptoms worse. Pollen, mold, and cigarette smoke may also irritate your skin.
  • Some kinds of soap, makeup, and household cleaners may bother your skin. Ask your healthcare provider what mild products you can use.
  • Stress may cause your eczema to get worse.

How is eczema diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider if you know what triggers your rash. He will want to know if anyone in your family has allergies, asthma, or eczema. There are no tests to diagnose eczema. Your healthcare provider may test you for allergies to find out if they trigger your eczema.

How is eczema treated?

There is no cure for eczema. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and itching and add moisture to your skin. Your symptoms should improve after 3 weeks of treatment. You may need the following:

  • Medicines , such as immunosuppressants, help reduce itching, redness, pain, and swelling. They may be given as a cream or pill. You may also receive antihistamines to reduce itching, or antibiotics if you have a skin infection.
  • Phototherapy , or ultraviolet light, may help heal your skin. It is also called light therapy.

How can I manage eczema?

  • Do not scratch. Pat or press on your skin to relieve itching. Your symptoms will get worse if you scratch. Keep your fingernails short so you do not tear your skin if you do scratch.
  • Keep your skin moist. Rub lotion, cream, or ointment into your skin right after a bath or shower when your skin is still damp. Ask your healthcare provider what to use and how often to use it.
  • Take baths or showers with warm water for 10 minutes or less. Use mild bar soap. Ask your healthcare provider for the best soap for you to use.
  • Wear cotton clothes. Wear loose-fitting clothes made from cotton or cotton blends. Avoid wool.
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home.
  • Avoid changes in temperature , especially activities that cause you to sweat a lot because this can cause itching. Remove blankets from your bed if you get hot while you sleep.
  • Avoid allergens, dust, and skin irritants. Do not let pets inside your home. Do not use perfume, fabric softener, or makeup that burns or itches.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You develop a fever or have red streaks going up your arm or leg.
  • Your rash gets more swollen, red, or hot.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Most of your skin is red, swollen, painful, and covered with scales.
  • You develop bloody, red, painful crusts.
  • Your skin blisters and oozes white or yellow pus.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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