Eczema is a term used to describe several diseases which are characterized by the inflammation of the skin. If you have any of these diseases, you will see the following symptoms:
- Itching of the skin in affected areas.
- Redness of the skin
- Rashes at the affected areas
The diseases which are referred to by the term eczema include the following skin conditions:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Seborrhoeic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Nummular dermatitis
Because these diseases affect your skin, the treatment for them usually starts with medications such as ointments and creams which can be applied locally to the affected areas of the skin.
Ointments used in the treatment of eczema
The first group of ointments which your doctor will prescribe for you include drugs known as moisturizers.
These ointments are used to keep your skin moist because eczema is associated with dry skins. By applying them frequently, you will be able to reduce the frequency of the attacks of the disease.
The second group of ointments which are used in the treatment of eczema are steroid ointments.
Steroids are drugs which reduce the inflammatory response which is responsible for the itching and redness that you see in eczema. If you apply them to the site of the disease, you will experience relief from these symptoms.
Your doctor will usually tell you to be careful while using steroid ointments, and to apply them to your skin only once or twice a day.
This is because if you use steroids too frequently, they may cause some side effects.
The third group of ointments include antibiotic creams. If you have eczema, and you scratch your skin too hard, bacteria may enter into your skin at the site of scratching. This will make a discharge to appear at the site of eczema, and the redness and swelling will increase.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic creams for you if he feels that bacterial organisms have affected the site of your disease.
Other ointments that may be used in the treatment of eczema include preparations that contain specific immune suppressant drugs known as calcineurin inhibitors.
These drugs suppress the immune system and can be used to obtain relief from the symptoms of eczema.
These drugs should also be used with caution because if you apply them excessively, they will also result in some side effects.
Ointment preparations used in the treatment of eczema often contain other ingredients in addition to the main active ingredient. Some of these extra ingredients include some natural skin lipids and ceramides.
These substances are found in healthy skins and act as a natural barrier to invasion by environmental agents. By adding them to ointments, the ointment will make your skin become more effective at resisting allergens in the environment.
Some skin ointments may contain chemicals such as dyes, perfumes, stabilizers and chemical preservatives. These chemicals may irritate your skin if you are prone to having eczema, and they should generally be avoided.
THE BEST OINTMENT FOR THE TREATMENT OF ECZEMA
The ointment of choice to use during an attack of eczema depends on the severity of the attack.
Mild cases of eczema
Here, you may just have two or three patches of eczema on your skin.
In such mild cases, the best ointments to use are moisturizers.
These ointments will keep your skin moist, and thereby reduce the dryness that is associated with eczema.
You should moisturize your skin frequently throughout the day. You can carry your moisturizer with you to school or to the workplace.
The best moisturizers to use on your skin are those that have very high oil content, and which do not have other chemicals like perfumes, preservatives or stabilizers. These added chemicals can cause further irritation in sensitive skins.
Common plain petroleum jelly can be a very effective moisturizer for your skin. It has a very high oil content which can help retain the moisture on your skin. It should be applied shortly after bathing, and very frequently throughout the day.
Apply it to your hands any time you wash them. A small container of petroleum jelly can be carried about throughout the day for this purpose.
There are many commercial moisturizer formulations available in the market. If you want to buy another moisturizer, it is best to buy ointments that have high oil content. Avoid creams and lotions that have higher water content. Also avoid commercial preparations that have chemical stabilizers, preservatives and perfumes.
Your doctor may also advise you on the moisturizer to use. There are many commercial preparations available, and different doctors have their favourite drugs they use based on proven effectiveness.
Moderate or severe cases of eczema
In this case, the areas affected on your body during eczema attacks are more extensive than in the milder form.
Treatment will usually begin with an emollient cream which is specially formulated to repair the skin barrier. These creams contain naturally occurring lipids, ceramides, vitamins, etc, which are expertly blended to help strengthen the barrier functions of your skin.
Your doctor will usually prescribe an effective emollient for you to purchase and use.
There may also be a need for you to use steroids to relieve the symptoms of itching, rashes and redness. There are many steroid formulations, and they have different strengths depending on their steroid content.
Your doctor will usually want to prescribe a mild steroid for you if need be, and if your symptoms do not respond adequately, he may go for steroid ointments which have a higher steroid content.
In some cases, the rashes and itching may not even respond to the use of steroids. At such times, your doctor may decide to use other immunosuppressant ointments containing calcineurin inhibitors. These drugs include medications like pimecrolimus which is an immunosuppressant.
If your doctor suspects that bacterial superinfection has occurred, he may want to prescribe an antibiotic cream.
There are many of these available, and the choice of your doctor may be guided by a swab which he may take as he examines your skin. Through the culture result, he will know the particular organism involved, and the particular antibiotic cream to use.
- National Eczema Association. Controlling Eczema by moisturizing. National eczema.org. Accessed 7th January 2019.
- Nicole Yi Zhen Chiang, Julian Verbov. Dermatology, a handbook for medical students and junior doctors. 2nd edition. London, UK: British Association of Dermatologists; 2014.
- Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy. Eczema ( atopic dermatitis). www.allergy.org.au. Accessed 4th January 2019.
Uche Udeariry is a doctor, medical writer, author and tech entrepreneur.
Following graduation, he practised clinical medicine for six years, before moving into medical writing.
He currently runs a string of businesses and is the proprietor of a tech startup committed to mobile app development and web development.
He has authored six books which are available on the Amazon store in Kindle and print formats. He is also working on his seventh and eighth books.