How is eczema treated? What medications are used?

Treating eczema (atopic dermatitis) can be difficult if the cause is something you can’t control, like genetics. Fortunately, you may have some influence over your environment and stress levels. Do your best to figure out what triggers or worsens your eczema, and then avoid it. The goal is to reduce itching and discomfort and prevent infection and additional flare-ups.

Consider these treatment tips:

  • Use a humidifier if dry air makes your skin dry.
  • See a psychiatrist for medication and a therapist for counseling if you’re experiencing symptoms of poor mental/emotional health.
  • Moisturize your skin using a cream or ointment. Lotions don’t work as well. Apply several times a day, including after you bathe or shower. Use lukewarm water in the tub or shower instead of hot.
  • Use mild soaps and other products that are free of perfumes, dyes and alcohol. Look for products labeled “fragrance free,” “hypoallergenic” and “for sensitive skin.”
  • Use skin products that contain ceramide. These moisturizers replace some of the “glue” (the barrier) missing from your skin.
  • Apply cortisone creams and ointments. Cortisone is an over-the-counter steroid found in hydrocortisone (Cortisone 10®) and hydrocortisone acetate (Cort-Aid®). They may help control the itching and redness.
  • Take over-the-counter antihistamines for severe itching.
  • Take prescription medications. Your healthcare provider may prescribe steroid creams, pills and/or shots. Long-term risks include side effects like high blood pressure, weight gain and thinning of the skin. There are newer medications, called topical immunomodulators (TIMs) that show progress in treating patients who do not respond to other treatments. They change the body’s immune response to allergens and have fewer side effects.
  • Phototherapy: The ultraviolet light waves found in sunlight have been shown to help certain skin disorders, including eczema. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light, usually ultraviolet B (UVB), from special lamps.

If your child has skin problems, such as eczema, you can:

  • Avoid long, hot baths, which can dry the skin. Use lukewarm water instead and give your child sponge baths.
  • Apply lotion immediately after bathing while the skin is still moist. This will help trap moisture in the skin.
  • Keep the room temperature as regular as possible. Changes in room temperature and humidity can dry the skin.
  • Keep your child dressed in cotton. Wool, silk and manmade fabrics such as polyester can irritate the skin.
  • Use mild laundry soap and make sure that clothes are well rinsed.
  • Watch for skin infections. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice an infection.
  • Help them avoid rubbing or scratching the rash.
  • Use moisturizers several times daily. In infants with eczema, moisturizing on a regular basis (with each diaper change for example) is extremely helpful.

Is there a cure for eczema (atopic dermatitis)?

No. There are treatments, but no treatment can claim to eliminate the symptoms of dermatitis 100% of the time.

Should I see a dermatologist for my eczema?

Yes, if your usual healthcare provider is unable to help with your eczema symptoms. Dermatologists specialize in skin conditions.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/28/2020.

References

  • NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Atopic Dermatitis. Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • Eichenfield LF, Wynnis LT, Chamlin SL, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis: Section 1. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014;70:388. Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. What Is Atopic Dermatitis? Accessed 10/20/2020.'
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Skin Care at Home. Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. What is eczema? Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • Katta R, Schlichte M. Diet and Dermatitis: Food Triggers. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2014;7(3)-30-36. Accessed 10/20/2020.

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