Goodskin Dermatology

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment for Eczema

The itching is intense. 

Not only is your skin irritated and inflamed, but the red, crusty patches make you want to keep it hidden 24/7 under jeans and a turtleneck. 

The culprit? Eczema — a frustrating skin condition that affects millions of Americans. 

If you’re looking for skin treatment for eczema, we may be able to help. 

Keep reading to learn more about signs, symptoms, and treatment options for eczema.

eczema treatment

Table of Contents

What Is Eczema?

Eczema, a type of dermatitis, is a condition that causes your skin to become dry, bumpy, itchy, and flaky.

There are several types of eczema, including:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Dyshidrotic eczema
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Nummular eczema
  • Seborrheic dermatitis

What Are the Symptoms of Eczema?

The symptoms of eczema may include the following (not every person will experience all eczema symptoms and severity will vary):

  • Dry skin
  • Bumps on your skin
  • Itching
  • Thick, leathery patches of skin
  • Flaking, scaling, or crusting of your skin
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Irritation
  • Rash

On darker skin, an eczema rash may be purple, brown, or gray. On lighter skin, an eczema rash may look pink, purple, or red.

Eczema may show up anywhere on your body, including your:

  • Hands
  • Neck
  • Elbows
  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Feet
  • Face, especially cheeks
  • In and around ears
  • Lips
  • Nipples
  • Breasts
  • Vulva
  • Penis

If you are suffering from the symptoms of eczema, the professional team at Goodskin may be able to help. 

Schedule an appointment online today!

What Causes Eczema?

Overactive Immune System

A person with eczema may have an immune system that overreacts to small irritants or allergens in their environment. 

This may include exposure to environmental triggers such as:

  • Smoke
  • Air pollutants
  • Harsh soaps, including laundry detergents
  • Fabrics such as wool
  • Skin care products
  • Low humidity (causes drying of the skin)
  • Heat, and high humidity (causes overheating and sweating)

When an eczema sufferer comes into contact with one of these triggers, their immune system treats it as a foreign invader and activates inflammation as the body’s natural defense system. This inflammation is what causes the symptoms of eczema.

Genetics

Research shows that you may be more likely to have eczema if you have a family history of: 

  • Eczema 
  • Dermatitis
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever 
  • Allergies, including pollen, animal dander, or foods 

Emotional Triggers

Research also shows that a person’s mental health may also be a contributing factor for eczema. Flare-ups may be brought on by: 

  • High levels of stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Low self-esteem

Food Allergies

Food allergies or sensitivities may also cause eczema. Examples of common food allergies include:

  • Peanuts
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

How Is Eczema Diagnosed?

If you visit your primary care provider, they may refer you to a dermatologist to diagnose and treat your eczema. The first step will likely be a physical exam, where your healthcare professional will take a close look at your skin. 

Because symptoms of eczema can look similar to other conditions, your physician may also suggest various tests to rule out other culprits and confirm your diagnosis, including:

  • An allergy test
  • Blood tests 
  • A skin biopsy to determine the type of dermatitis

Your provider may also ask questions to discover more about your symptoms, such as:

  • What skin care products do you use?
  • Do you have any medical conditions like asthma or allergies?
  • Do you have a family history of eczema?
  • How long have you been experiencing symptoms?
  • Do you take hot showers?
  • Does anything make your symptoms worse?
  • Do your symptoms impact your ability to perform daily activities or sleep?
eczema treatments

How Is Eczema Treated?

The treatment you receive for eczema will be unique to your symptoms and medical history. 

Please note that treatments for eczema may vary depending on the condition and individual patient. Always consult with your healthcare provider to determine which treatment is recommended.

Moisturizer

Keeping your skin adequately moisturized may help relieve the symptoms of eczema.

One study revealed that eczema patients who used moisturizer had fewer flare-ups and were less likely to turn to topical medication to treat their symptoms.

You can choose to use a lotion that specifically targets eczema relief or a general moisturizer — but be sure to choose skin care products that are hypoallergenic and contain lipids and ceramides to improve your skin’s barrier.

Avoid using moisturizers that contain:

  • Fragrances
  • Dyes
  • Preservatives
  • Stabilizers
  • Urea
  • Lanolin
  • Retinoids
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Propylene glycol
  • Ethanol

Try to keep your skin moisturized throughout the day, and always reapply moisturizer while your skin is still damp after a bath or shower.

It may take a process of trial and error before you find the moisturizer that works best for you. If you need help choosing a moisturizer, visit your skin care professional.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Over-the-counter (OTC) eczema treatments are oral and topical medications that can be purchased without a prescription. 

There is a wide range of treatments that are designed to relieve eczema symptoms, including:

  • Antihistamines – These work to help fight the itch and curb inflammation. Some antihistamines also contain sedatives that may help you sleep. Examples of over-the-counter antihistamines include:
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Siladryl, Unisom, Banophen, Sudafed) 
    • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Wal-Finate, Aller-Chlor)
    • Cetirizine (Zyrtec, Aller-Tec, Alleroff, Cetiri-D)
    • Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert, Wal-itin)
    • Fexofenadine (Allegra, AllerEase, Aller-Fex, Wal-Fex Allergy)
    • Doxylamine (Unisom, Wal-Som, Ultra Sleep)
  • Pain relievers These over-the-counter eczema treatments may combat common eczema symptoms including burning, pain, and inflammation, and include: 
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
  • Topical hydrocortisone This low-potency steroid may be helpful for the temporary relief of itching and rashes. OTC steroids are available in a number of different forms, including:
    • Ointments
    • Creams
    • Lotions 
    • Gels
  • Shampoos Medicated over-the-counter shampoos help with symptoms of eczema on your scalp, including dandruff. They contain ingredients such as:
    • Ketoconazole
    • Selenium sulfide
    • Coal tar 
    • Zinc pyrithione 

Light Therapy

Light therapy, also called phototherapy, involves treatment with various wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light. It is often prescribed for many forms of eczema and may help:

  • Reduce itch and inflammation
  • Improve the appearance of your skin 
  • Reduce the appearance of blemishes

Phototherapy may be used if you have eczema all over your body or if you only have localized eczema on places like your hands and feet.

The most common type of light therapy used in eczema treatment is narrowband ultraviolet A (UVA) or B (NB-UVB) light, which is emitted through the use of a special machine. 

Topical Prescription Medications

Topical treatments for eczema are medications that are applied to your skin to manage symptoms and reduce inflammation. They are available in several different types, including:

  • Topical JAK inhibitor – Opzelura (ruxolitinib 1.5%). This cream may help block the overactive pathways that lead to inflammation and may serve to help reduce itching, as well.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors – This eczema treatment is non-steroidal, and keeps certain cells of your immune system from “turning on.” This helps prevent redness, itching, and inflammation and includes: 
    • Tacrolimus ointment (Protopi) 
    • Pimecrolimus cream (Elidel)
  • Topical PDE4 inhibitors Crisaborole (Eucrisa). This helps prevent inflammation. 
  • Topical steroids This eczema treatment option can reduce inflammation and itching, so the skin can begin to heal, and includes: 
    • Mometasone furoate (Elocon ointment)
    • Fluticasone (Cutivate)
    • Amcinonide (Cyclocort)
    • Betamethasone dipropionate (Betanate)
    • Triamcinolone acetonide (Kenalog)
treatment for eczema

Oral Prescription Medications

Depending on your symptoms, your provider may prescribe oral medications as part of your treatment of eczema. These may include:

  • Immunosuppressants Sometimes prescribed for cases of moderate to severe eczema, immunosuppressants help stop itching, allow the skin to heal, and reduce the risk of skin infection. These include drugs such as: 
    • Azathioprine
    • Ciclosporin
  • Oral JAK inhibitors – These drugs help stop inflammation and itching and include: 
    • Cibinqo (abrocitinib) 
    • Rinvoq (upadacitinib) 
  • Traditional systemic medications Traditional systemic medications that are sometimes used for eczema treatment include:
    • Azathioprine 
    • Cyclosporine 
    • Methotrexate 
    • Mycophenolate mofetil 

Oral steroids – For severe cases of eczema, treatment may include oral steroids, such as Prednisone, to control inflammation.

Additional Treatments for Eczema

There are also several additional steps you can take that may help prevent eczema flare-ups, including:

  • Taking baths or showers with cool or warm water only
  • Drinking at least eight glasses of water each day to keep your skin well-hydrated 
  • Wearing loose clothing made of cotton, linen, or other natural fabrics
  • Always washing new clothing before you wear it
  • Effectively managing your stress 
  • Avoiding any emotional triggers
  • Seeing a therapist 
  • Using a humidifier if you live in a dry climate

Eczema Treatment FAQs

How Does a Dermatologist Treat Eczema?

A dermatologist will provide a thorough exam and treat eczema symptoms on a case-by-case basis. Dermatologist-recommended eczema treatments may include:

  • Over-the-counter moisturizers
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Light therapy
  • Prescription medications
  • Lifestyle changes

What Heals Eczema Quickly?

While there isn’t a quick cure for eczema, to speed the relief of eczema symptoms, you may want to try:

Goodskin Dermatology Provides High-Quality, Patient-Based Eczema Treatment

Are you ready to say goodbye to the itching and pain of eczema? 

Then it’s time to visit the experienced team at Goodskin Dermatology. We’re experts in the treatment of eczema and other common skin conditions

Our convenient locations in Hillsboro, Troutdale, Clackamas, and Aloha, make it easy for our patients to enjoy the benefits of healthy, vibrant, and beautiful skin.

We take pride in being known as a practice our patients can truly rely on — where they know they will be heard, respected, and understood each time they walk through our doors. 

Your skin is our top priority at Goodskin Dermatology. 

Schedule your appointment online today!

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.