The Truth About Eczema Treatment

Eczema is a chronic (long lasting) skin disease. Eczema treatment means different things to different people, and that includes health care providers, by the way.

You'll sometimes hear eczema referred to as atopic dermatitis. It often begins in childhood. If you want to find out more about eczema in children, click here.

Just so you know, we'll be focusing here on non-drug approaches to treating the disease.

But first, let's look at what eczema does to the skin. You probably already know that, but we'll go over it again briefly, so no one gets bored. Often, the skin will be dry, itchy, hardened and leathery.

Remember it's possible to confuse eczema with other diseases like psoriasis, scabies and zinc deficiency. So before treating eczema, it's important to make sure that it is eczema and not something else.

There are some factors that increase the risk of developing eczema. Like being male - if you're a guy, please postpone your reaction until you've read the whole paragraph, OK?

Other factors are being born to an older mother and having a family history of eczema. I know it seems so unfair to be penalized for something we can't control - like being male, for example.

Still more factors: asthma or hay fever, shorter periods of exclusive breast feeding, being heavier and having a bigger head at birth. Yes, really.

Phew! These all seem to be outside the control of the person who has eczema, right? Not fair, I agree. But isn't much of life unfair? Please don't go away - I know this is supposed to be about eczema treatment, OK?

Eczema is very difficult to control. In the past, treating this disease often meant avoiding soap and water. I don't think it was easy to do that and at the same time maintain a reasonable standard of cleanliness (and friendships!) Thank goodness, there are more treatment choices today.

Let's look at some non-drug approaches to eczema treatment.

Wash less often. Bathing frequently, especially with hot water, can make the skin lose water and protective oils. This can lead to the skin becoming dry and irritated. Still, good hygiene is important because infection can make eczema worse. What to do?

Wash with warm or lukewarm water, soak the affected area or use a wet wash cloth. Immediately after washing, apply a moisturizer.

If you're the mother of a young child, breast feed for as long as possible. A Canadian study of about 200 mothers with a history of eczema found that the disease was less common in children who were breast fed (especially if their mothers avoided eggs, cow's milk, peanuts, soymilk, fish) than in those who were fed with cow's milk or soy milk. This study is controversial, but it's worth mentioning.

A study of 4000 found that breast feeding exclusively for at least 4 months decreased the risk of eczema and the positive effects lasted up to 4 years.

Another smaller study found that children who were given cow's milk after weaning were more likely to develop eczema.

Avoid dust mites and other allergy-causing substances in the environment. Eczema treatment is more effective when this is done.

Another study found that eczema symptoms improved after taking these steps: vacuum cleaning the living room and bedroom frequently, washing bedding with hot water every week, cleaning soft toys regularly, and not having pets in the home.

Treatment for eczema can include focusing on food and diet. It is possible to reduce eczema symptoms through diet. A study of about 90 people found that avoiding common allergenic foods like cow's milk and eggs improved their eczema.

Choose your soap carefully. Many brands of soap contain ingredients that can irritate the skin, especially in people who have eczema.

Even soaps that are advertised as "mild" may irritate the skin. It's best to use soaps without fragrance or preservatives. Also, some laundry detergents can irritate the skin, so again, choose these carefully.

Water therapy or salt baths. Some people have seen their eczema improve after having a hot spring bath, or bathing in water with a high salt content.

Make moisturizers a major part of your eczema treatment. Use them generously after washing or swimming, to keep the skin hydrated - they help to keep water on the skin. You can apply a non-medicated moisturizer as often as you need to, without worrying about side effects.

Remember that moisturizers can irritate or dry the skin if they contain a lot of fragrances or preservatives. Continue to use moisturizers even after your eczema symptoms have improved.

On the whole, treating eczema is difficult because it is a disease that can last for a long time and occur frequently. But, here's the good part...

...the more you understand about the triggers and treatment options for eczema, the easier it is to treat. And, best of all, there are steps you can take to control eczema without using medication.

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