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Skin Conditions and Eczema

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How Is Eczema Diagnosed?

A pediatrician, dermatologist, or your primary care provider can make a diagnosis of eczema. While there are no tests to determine eczema, most often your doctor can tell if it's eczema by looking at your skin and by asking a few questions.

Since many people with eczema also have allergies, your doctor may perform allergy tests to determine possible irritants or triggers. Children with eczema are especially likely to be tested for allergies.

How Is Eczema Treated?

The goal of treatment for eczema is to relieve and prevent itching, which can lead to infection. Since the disease makes skin dry and itchy, lotions and creams are recommended to keep the skin moist. These products are usually applied when the skin is damp, such as after bathing, to help the skin retain moisture. Cold compresses may also be used to relieve itching.

Over-the-counter products, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream, or prescription creams and ointments containing corticosteroids, are often prescribed to lessen inflammation. In addition, if the affected area becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection-causing bacteria.

Other treatments include antihistamines to lessen severe itching, tar treatments (chemicals designed to reduce itching), phototherapy (therapy using ultraviolet light applied to the skin), and the drug cyclosporine for people whose condition doesn't respond to other treatments.

The FDA has approved two drugs known as topical immunomodulators (TIMs) for the treatment of mild-to-moderate eczema. The drugs, Elidel and Protopic, are skin creams that work by altering the immune system response to prevent flare-ups.

The FDA has warned doctors to prescribe Elidel and Protopic with caution due to concerns over a possible cancer risk associated with their use. The two creams also carry the FDA's "black box" warning on their packaging to alert doctors and patients to these potential risks. The warning advises doctors to prescribe short-term use of Elidel and Protopic only after other available eczema treatments have failed in adults and children over the age of 2. It should not be used in kids under age 2.

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