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Medications to Treat Eczema continued...

Systemic corticosteroids. These powerful drugs help relieve symptoms of severe or difficult-to-treat eczema. Because of the risk for side effects such as skin damage and bone loss, systemic corticosteroids are only used for short periods of time. They may be given as pills, a liquid, or as a shot.

Immunosuppressants. These drugs include cyclosporine, methotrexate, and mycophenolate mofetil. They help suppress the overreaction of the immune system. Immunosuppressants are given as pills, liquids, or as an injection. They are used for moderate to severe eczema that hasn't responded to other treatments. Serious side effects include high blood pressure and kidney problems. To limit the risk for side effects, these medicines are only used for a short period of time.

Antibiotics. Eczema causes skin to itch. Scratching damages the skin, and this allows bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Antibiotics treat these bacterial skin infections.

Antihistamines. Used at nighttime, these drugs help relieve itching symptoms and have a sedating effect that may help you sleep.

Phototherapy to Treat Eczema

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can help treat moderate to severe eczema. UV rays help prevent the immune system from overreacting. Potential side effects from long-term exposure include premature skin aging and skin cancer. Because of these concerns, doctors use the lowest possible dose and monitor skin carefully.

There are two types of phototherapy:

UV light therapy. A person's body is exposed to UVA, UVB, or a combination of both. Sometimes coal tar, a topical treatment, may be added. Eczema treatments occur 2 to 5 times a week, depending on the type of therapy used. Sessions take place in a dermatologist's office.

PUVA therapy. With this therapy, you take psoralen, a prescription medication that makes the skin more sensitive to UVA light. PUVA is used for people who don't respond to UV therapy alone.

Skin Care for Eczema at Home

Keeping your skin healthy can help prevent dry, itchy, red skin and may reduce the need for medication. Pamper your skin by taking these steps:

Bathe only in warm water. Hot water dries out skin. Wash with a gentle cleanser instead of soap. Don't use body scrubbers or washcloths, as these can irritate skin. Pat dry with a soft towel instead of rubbing, and be sure to leave skin damp.