Lindsay Ackerman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, who supervises residents in Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center Internal Medicine Residency Program.
Question: I think I have eczema, but I'm not really sure. My skin gets really itchy, to the point where I scratch as hard as I can and it makes my skin red, scabby and flakey. It's all over my back, stomach, sometimes, my arms and legs. What are some things I can use to help it go away?
Answer: Eczema is a very common skin condition that usually consists of scaly, itchy, red plaques occurring in multiple different areas of the body.
Eczema can occur under many different circumstances, including, but not limited to the following; excessive use of irritating substances on the skin (such as harsh soaps, fragranced lotions or creams, dyes in laundry detergents or clothing), dry weather, seasonal allergies with or without asthma flares, contact with allergenic substances such as poison ivy, or simply from one's genetic predisposition to develop the manifestations of eczema.
Eczema can vary in severity, and thus may require the management of a qualified physician. However all patients with eczema should follow these basic rules:
- Bathing should be no more than once daily. It is preferable to use a shower (rather than a bath), with water no warmer than lukewarm, and with a mild soap such as Cetaphil, Dove Fragrance Free, Purpose, or Vanicream. Avoid harsh cleansers such as Lever 2000, Coast, Zest, and Irish Spring, as these soaps will leach the oils out of the skin that are needed for repair.
- Always moisturize with a hypoallergenic moisturizing cream (not a lotion, because creams are thicker and carry more oil into the skin). The cream should not have any fragrance. Moisturizing eczematous skin should be done twice daily, one of those times being after the skin has been only blotted dry after showering. The cream will help seal in the moisture from the skin that remains slightly damp after showering.
- Use of topical corticosteroids are usually required to tame down 'angrier' areas where the skin is quite red and itchy. Over the counter varieties are available (such as Cortisone 10). More severe flare-ups may require prescription-strength treatments.
If your skin condition doesn't improve after you follow these recommendations, please call your doctor.