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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.

Apply moisturizers daily. Use a moisturizer immediately after bathing or washing your hands. Choose fragrance-free moisturizers that won't irritate skin. Try applying a thicker skin cream or ointment that contains more oil at night and wear cotton gloves or socks to help lock in moisture. Wearing gloves at night can also help prevent you from scratching in your sleep.

Avoid excess bathing and hand washing. Overexposure to water dries out skin. Also avoid alcohol-based hand cleaners. 

Limit contact with skin irritants. Household cleaners, laundry detergents, perfumed soaps, bubble baths, cosmetics, and many other things can aggravate eczema. Learn what irritates your skin so you can avoid it.

Choose cotton clothes that fit comfortably. Wool and synthetic fibers can irritate skin. Also, be sure to wash new clothes before wearing them for the first time. Use fragrance-free laundry soap, and rinse your laundry thoroughly.

Avoid sweating and overheating. Being hot and sweaty often triggers itching and scratching.

Know environmental triggers. Many people with eczema react to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold.

Reduce stress. Finding time to relax can be a challenge, but reducing your stress level will help prevent eczema flares.