Eczema - Do I Have Eczema, and How Do I Treat It?

It can be hard to tell for sure if you have eczema. You’ll want to see a dermatologist or other doctor to find out.

At your appointment, your doctor will check your skin and talk with you about your symptoms, your health history in general, and any rashes or allergies that run in your family.

Based on that information, she'll decide if it’s eczema or something else.

What Are the Treatments?

Good skin care is key. If your eczema is mild, that might be all you need, along with some changes in your daily habits.

If you have severe eczema, you may need to take medicine for it, too.

The basics:

Soap and moisturizer. Use a mild soap or soap substitute that won't dry your skin. You’ll also want a good moisturizer in cream, lotion, or ointment form. Smooth it on right after a shower or bath, as well as one other time each day.

If your eczema is severe, you may find that it helps to take baths with a small amount of bleach added to the water. That kills bacteria that live on the skin of people with eczema.

Short, warm showers. Don’t take very hot or very long showers or baths. They can dry out your skin.

Stress management. Get regular exercise, and set aside time to relax. Need a few ideas? You could get together with friends, laugh, listen to music, meditate or pray, or enjoy a hobby.

Get a humidifier. Dry air can be stressful for your skin.

Medicines

If your doctor decides you need meds to treat your eczema, those may include:

Hydrocortisone. Over-the-counter cream or ointment versions of it may help mild eczema. If yours is severe, you may need a prescription dose.

Antihistamines. Ones you take by mouth are available over-the-counter and may help relieve symptoms. Some of these make you drowsy, but others don’t.

Corticosteroids. Your doctor may prescribe these if other treatments don’t work. Always follow your doctor's directions when taking steroids by mouth.

Ultraviolet light therapy. This may help if your skin condition is severe.

Drugs that work on your immune system. Your doctor may consider these medicines -- such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, or methotrexate -- if other treatments don’t help. There are also prescription creams that treat eczema by controlling inflammation and reducing the immune system reactions. Examples include pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic), which you should only use for a short time if other treatments don't work -- and you should never use them on kids younger than 2, according to the FDA.

Prescription-strength moisturizers. These support the skin’s barrier.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on June 22, 2016

Sources

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology.

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