Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, describes a red, itchy skin condition which usually appears during childhood. Fortunately in most patients eczema resolves before adulthood although in some cases this condition may persist or first appear in adult life.
The skin may be red and weepy in the acute phase or scaly and thickened in the chronic phase; there is often associated skin dryness. Secondary infection may supervene.
Exacerbating Factors Include:
- Contact with wool, sand and grass.
- Excessively cold or hot weather.
- In some cases, contact with house dust mite or cat and dog hair.
- Stress may also adversely affect this condition.
- The avoidance of irritating factors.
- Routine skin care with the use of a soap-free wash and a moisturiser.
- Topical steroids are often used to control acute flares and in some cases are needed as maintenance therapy. Used appropriately under supervision they are not dangerous to the skin or general health.
- Occasionally tar creams are also used in chronic eczema.
- Pimecrolimus, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory cream, also has a role to play in milder cases especially on the face and in the body folds.
- Secondary infection should be promptly treated.
UVB phototherapy is often very useful in controlling widespread eczema. Oral immunosuppressive therapy is reserved for the most severe cases.