Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition that makes the skin red and itchy. It can occur at any age, but it is most commonly found in children. Normally, healthy skin preserves its moisture and safeguards against irritants, allergens, and bacteria. Eczema is often confused with severe psoriasis because they share many of the same triggers. Eczema is caused by a gene variation that affects the skin’s ability to maintain this protection, allowing the skin to be affected by environmental factors.
Symptoms of eczema can include:
- Dry, itchy skin
- Red to brownish-gray patches, mainly on the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, eyelids, neck, upper chest, inside the bend of the knees and elbows, and in infant the face and scalp
- Small, raised bumps
- Thickened, cracked, and scaly skin
- Sensitive, raw, and swollen skin
Eczema is a chronic and persistent condition that may include complications, such as asthma, skin infections, arthritis, allergies, and even sleep problems. There are treatments that can help, including the following:
Biologic treatments for eczema, or biologics, are an effective targeted therapy and essentially use human DNA to treat diseases at the immune system level. These genetically engineered medications contain proteins that are derived from cells and living tissues and are cultured in a laboratory. They work by preventing the immune system from overreacting and producing inflammation, thereby lowering the severity of eczema symptoms. Biologics come in name brands, including Dupixent (dupilumab) eczema treatment, and targets a certain type of protein, called interleukin, to prevent it from binding to cell receptors. This type of medication productively decrease eczema symptoms and lower the severity of inflammation. Dupixent comes in the form of an injection that patients can receive every other week.
2. Skin barrier creams
Maintaining the skin’s moisture barrier is crucial for eczema patients. Eczema damages the skin barrier, leaving it exposed and sensitive to bacteria, irritants, and allergens. Many dermatologists recommend using a skin barrier cream. These special creams are infused with ceramides and lipids, both naturally occurring substances found in healthy skin barriers. These ingredients form a protective layer to the skin to maintain moisture and keep out impurities, allowing the skin to heal. Skin barrier creams are only meant to be applied to affected skin and are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
Corticosteroids, or steroids, is a commonly prescribed medication for all types of eczema. It can ease symptoms like redness, itching, and reduce inflammation, allowing the skin to begin to heal. These are naturally occurring substances that our bodies make to regulate immune function and are used to treat different kinds of inflammatory skin conditions. Corticosteroids aren’t meant to be used as a moisturizer, rather they are meant to be followed up with an additional moisturizer. Using steroids can come with severe side effects, so they are only to be used as advised by your doctor and for short periods of time.
4. Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs)
A topical calcineurin inhibitor, or TCI, is a nonsteroidal medication that is applied to the areas affected by eczema. They work by stopping a piece of the immune system from “turning on”, stopping it from causing symptoms, such as itchiness and redness. Unlike corticosteroids, TCIs don’t cause as many side effects so they are safer to use for extended periods of time.
5. PDE4 inhibitors
PDE4 inhibitors are a drug that blocks an enzyme known as phosphodiesterase 4, or PDE4, from allowing a lot of inflammation in the body. The enzyme is naturally produced by cells in the immune system and aids body function by controlling a protein known to contribute to the inflammation that causes eczema. The side effects of using PDE4 include skin irritation where the balm was applied and hypersensitivity.