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Eczema (cont.)

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Can eczema be prevented?

While there is no cure for eczema, you can take steps to manage your symptoms and lessen the severity of outbreaks. Such measures include

  • avoidance of over-bathing;
  • applying moisturizer frequently, especially after bathing;
  • bathing in warm, not hot, water and using a mild soap;
  • limiting or avoiding contact with known irritants like soaps, perfumes, detergents, jewelry, environmental irritants, etc.;
  • wearing loose-fitting clothing (cotton clothing may be less irritating for many people than wool or synthetic fibers);
  • the use of cool compresses to help control itching;
  • avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions;
  • exercise, meditation, or other stress-management techniques can help those for whom stress is a trigger;
  • wearing protective gloves for activities that require frequent submersion of the hands in water;
  • avoiding activities that make you hot and sweaty as well as abrupt changes in temperature and humidity;
  • using a humidifier in both winter (when the heating dries the atmosphere) and in the summer (if air conditioning is used because it depletes the moisture in the air);
  • maintaining cool temperatures in sleeping areas, because heat can lead to sweating that may worsen itching and irritation.

What are the possible complications of eczema?

Mortality (death) from eczema itself is unheard of, but the morbidity (discomfort and disability) with eczema is significant in both adults and children and leads to work and school absences. Itching also increases the financial and psychological burden within a family.

As with any condition characterized by itchy skin, scratching can lead to skin wounds and secondary bacterial infections with Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria. These bacterial infections may require antibiotic treatment.

Kaposi varicelliform eruption (eczema herpeticum) is a known complication of atopic dermatitis that develops in association with a primary herpes simplex virus infection. This condition is characterized by blisters that generally begin in areas of eczema and spread rapidly to other eczematous areas and normal skin. Treatment with the antiviral drug acyclovir (Zovirax) may bring relief.

As mentioned earlier, people who develop atopic dermatitis often progress to develop other forms of allergic disease. Up to 30% of people with atopic dermatitis will develop asthma, and about 35% develop allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014

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