While eczema cannot be cured, most cases can be controlled by:
- Making lifestyle modifications to prevent flare-ups
- Seeing a dermatologist for treatment
- Using medication as prescribed
This approach tends to prevent inflammation and itching and keeps eczema from getting worse. Dermatologists recommend that treatment be sought at the onset of signs and symptoms. When therapy begins early, it often reduces severity and duration.
Effective treatment requires a correct diagnosis; however, it is not always easy to distinguish one type of eczema from another or from similar skin conditions. Your doctor has the medical training and experience needed to determine if eczema is present, and if present, which type. To diagnose eczema, your doctor examines the skin and asks about:
- When the skin condition first appeared
- Signs and symptoms, such as long-term pruritus (itching) or recurring dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)
- Certain circumstances that may aggravate the condition, such as excessively dry air or emotional stress
- Family medical history, including questions about close blood relatives who have asthma, hay fever, or eczema
- Personal medical history
- In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to rule out other causes.
Once eczema is diagnosed, a treatment plan will be made based on:
- Type and severity of the eczema present
- Age, health, and medical history (including presence of other conditions)
The primary goal of treatment is to relieve discomfort by controlling the signs and symptoms. Since eczema is usually dry and itchy, most treatment plans involve applying lotions, creams, or ointments to keep the skin as moist as possible. The treatment plan also may require lifestyle modifications and using medication as directed. A topical (applied to the skin) medication may be prescribed to help relieve itching and inflammation. Another way to treat the itch is with a non-sedating antihistamine. If itching is severe, a sedative antihistamine may be recommended. Certain types of severe eczema may be treated with phototherapy (sun lamp treatments). Oral medications to suppress the immune system, such as corticosteroids and cyclosporine, may be prescribed to treat severe eczema that has been unresponsive to other treatments.
Since so many factors affect why a person develops eczema, and since there are different types of eczemas, a treatment plan that works for one person may not effectively control eczema in another person. Sometimes it takes “trial and error” to find an effective treatment plan.