Eczema is a genetic condition that is thought to be caused by a breakdown of the skin’s barrier, which allows moisture in the skin to escape, leading to inflammation in the skin. Eczema is often seen in children, though it can flare at any point during a person’s life. During the winter months in Minnesota, as the humidity drops, we see many patients who are experiencing eczema flares for the first time. Treatment for eczema is different for every person. There are sometimes lifestyle factors (such as jobs that require excessive hand washing or people who develop a contact allergy to the dyes in their clothing) that must be addressed. For all patients, we recommend using a daily moisturizing cream (a thick cream that comes in a jar, such as Cerave cream, rather than a lotion) in the morning and evening. Adding moisture to the skin can sometimes help as much as prescription medications! Regular moisturizing helps to prevent eczema flares during the dry winter months.
Prescription medications for eczema can be very helpful for treating an eczema flare. Topical steroid medications (such as triamcinolone, desonide, and clobetasol) can be used for short periods of time to decrease inflammation in the skin. Medications like Protopic block the immune response of eczema and can be safely used on sensitive areas, like the face and groin. Oral antihistamines and barrier creams are also sometimes used in the treatment of eczema.
For patients with eczema, we recommend a procedure called patch testing. Patch testing can determine any contact allergies of the skin (meaning, things that you may come in contact with that can cause an eczema flare.) A panel of numerous potential contact allergens is applied to the back; 5 days later, the sites are evaluated to determine which allergens caused a skin reaction. Patch testing can yield helpful information for determining which allergens should be avoided in order to prevent an eczema flare.