If you have eczema, you’ll know how frustrating the skin condition can be.
Although there’s no cure for it, eczema can be controlled with medication so you can enjoy a better quality of life.
Here’s how to gain control:
Break the itch-scratch-itch cycle. When you scratch your skin, it secretes chemicals that make the itching worse. Your doctor can prescribe a cortisone cream or an antihistamine to ease the itching.
Identify the triggers. Tracking down eczema triggers is an important part of the treatment. Although targeted allergy tests are sometimes done, experts regard extensive testing as a waste of money because they’re not very accurate for skin conditions (there are more than 400 potential allergens!).
Guard against a witch hunt for triggers and realise eczema is chronic and recurrent – it will flare up from time to time. However, if you always develop eczema after eating a particular type of food, try to exclude it. It’s a good idea to consult a dietician as you do so, as you might be excluding important nutrients, too.
Accept that you won’t always be able to identify specific triggers. Rather make optimum use of your medication to keep your symptoms under control.
Treat the inflammation. Doctors usually treat eczema with cortisone creams of varying strengths depending on the seriousness of the condition. These are usually mixed with aqueous cream but researchers recently discovered some people react negatively to aqueous cream. An oil-based cream is then used.
Creams that contain immune regulators such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus as the active ingredients are particularly useful. These anti-inflammatories are available only on prescription and are expensive but they work really well.
A doctor might also prescribe an immune suppressant such as cyclosporine. Because it suppresses the immune system and therefore increases susceptibility to disease, cyclosporine is usually used only when eczema doesn’t respond to anything else.
Treat the secondary infection. Eczema isn’t infectious but the risk of bacterial or viral infections is great and infections such as fever blisters or warts can easily spread over the body. In extreme cases, some people (especially children) develop a fever and hospitalisation becomes necessary. Your doctor will treat infections with antibiotics.
Get psychological support. The psychology of eczema is important – after all, stress can make it worse. In addition, uncontrolled eczema can have a dramatic impact on the sufferer’s quality of life. Insomnia caused by the itching is common, so the person could be tired and irritable during the day.
More importantly, eczema is a visible disease that has a social impact on the sufferer. Get help from a counsellor or psychologist if you feel it’s having a negative impact on your mood and emotions.