Eczema/Atopic Dermatitis

Provided by Megan Goebel, MD (Allergist/Immunologist)

Eczema, sometimes referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a bothersome and chronic skin condition characterized by dry and itchy patches that can be exacerbated by exposure to allergens and irritants. Eczema typically appears in infants and young children but can persist into adulthood. The face, neck, arms and legs are most commonly involved.

Uncontrolled eczema can significantly decrease the quality of life of patients and is associated with depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping. Environmental allergy testing can be helpful to identify pollens, dust mites, pet dander, and/or molds that may be triggering eczema. In some patients food allergens can also play a role in eczema.

Many times irritants including fragrances in soaps, lotions, perfumes and laundry detergents can lead to eczema flare ups. Allergists play a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of this skin condition by identifying relevant allergens and counseling patients on avoidance measures. Restoring the skin barrier to retain moisture and keep out allergens and irritants is crucial. After a warm bath or shower with a mild and unscented soap, it is helpful to apply a thick cream or ointment to the skin. Applying a topical prescription to specific areas may be recommended. Occasionally the skin can become infected from scratching and treatment with topical or oral antibiotics is indicated. In severe cases, an injectable medication may be recommended to reduce inflammation and itching as well as prevent exacerbations.