What is eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a skin disease affecting both children and adults. It is sometimes related to allergies to food or the environment. Eczema generally starts in childhood and manifests as a scaly, itchy red rash over dry skin. Infants often have eczema on their face and limbs, while older children and adults tend to have eczema on the backs of their elbows and knees, as well as their hands and feet.

What causes eczema?

Eczema has been linked to food and some environmental allergies. Approximately 40% of children with eczema also have food allergies which cause their eczema to worsen. In general, eczema is a chronic disease which can be exacerbated by allergens and environmental changes. Patients whose families are prone to allergies and asthma are more likely to have eczema.

How is eczema diagnosed?

Diagnosis of eczema can be made by your allergist, primary doctor, or dermatologist. Since eczema can be related to food allergies, it is recommended that patients with eczema see an allergist for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis of allergies in patients with eczema can include skin testing, blood testing and food elimination.

How is eczema treated?

Eczema is often treated with moisturization, steroid ointments and occasionally stronger medications depending on the severity of the rash and whether there is a bacterial infection of the skin as well. Anti-histamines can sometimes provide relief of itchiness and prevent excessive scratching. If you or your child is allergic to foods that make eczema worse, elimination of these foods may improve your skin. This technique of eliminating allergenic foods is particularly important in children.

If you or your child have eczema, come and see your allergist—we can help!!

---by Dr. Katharine S. Nelson