Eczema is a medical condition that causes skin irritation and inflammation. Characterized by red, flaky, and itchy skin patches, it affects more than 30 million people in the United States alone. For most of them, dealing with eczema is a lifelong struggle that can sometimes lead to serious health complications.
Despite decades of research, doctors still don’t know what causes eczema, but they suspect that a combination of genetic factors, skin barrier defects, and specific triggers is the culprit. They are also yet to discover a way to permanently cure eczema. Instead, the goal of any eczema treatment – be it medication or a home remedy – is to reduce ongoing flare-ups and relieve the itching and discomfort that accompany them.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most effective ways how to get rid of eczema.
How to Get Rid of Eczema with Medication
When they first develop a patchy skin rash that resembles eczema, most people consult with their dermatologist before starting treatment. This is very important as the symptoms can be caused by a variety of other conditions including skin allergies, autoimmune diseases (e.g. psoriasis), and sexually transmitted infections (e.g. herpes or scabies). To get rid of the symptoms, you need to address their underlying cause, which is why proper diagnosis is essential for a successful treatment.
1. Topical and Systemic Corticosteroids
Once your doctor has determined that what you’re experiencing is indeed an eczema flare-up, they will likely recommend treatment with topical corticosteroids. Often called just “steroids”, these creams help reduce the redness and inflammation, thus allowing your skin to start healing.
Excessive use of corticosteroids can cause a number of side effects, such as skin discoloration, thinning, or thickening. To avoid this, they are typically applied once a day and only to the affected areas of the skin. Furthermore, topical corticosteroids are only used for the duration of the flare-up.
If there’s no visible improvement after a week or two of treatment, your doctor may prescribe a systemic corticosteroid as an alternative. These medications work the same as topical corticosteroids, the only difference being that they’re taken orally or in the form of an injection. Like their topical counterparts, they can also cause serious side effects, which is why they’re only used for short periods of time.
2. Alternative Treatments
Not all types of eczema require treatment with corticosteroids. Depending on the intensity of your flare-up, your dermatologist may recommend a topical calcineurin inhibitor (TCI) drug instead. These are prescription drugs that achieve their inflammation-reducing effects by suppressing your immune system. Although they don’t usually cause any of the side effects commonly attributed to corticosteroids, prolonged application of TCIs may increase your risk of cancer, which is why they’re only used briefly.
Other eczema treatments include topical PDE4 inhibitors, oral immunosuppressants, and antihistamines. However, these are only prescribed for more severe eczema cases. If you develop an additional skin infection during an eczema flare-up, your doctor may also prescribe an antiviral, antifungal, or antibiotic drug. To improve the appearance of your skin, they may also recommend light therapy.
How to Get Rid of Eczema Naturally
If you’d rather use natural ingredients and methods to treat eczema flare-ups, there are several remedies that could help you. Before you opt for any of them, you may want to consult with your doctor or your pharmacist. You can combine these natural treatments with medication prescribed by your dermatologist, but it is important to ask them about any potential side effects beforehand.
The following five remedies might help you reduce skin irritation and itching associated with eczema.
1. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Used topically, this oil can help reduce skin irritation. You can also take it orally to fight inflammation in the body, which is commonly associated with eczema. Current research is fairly limited, but it suggests that evening primrose oil may be effective against atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema.
2. Sunflower Oil
Known for its potent antibacterial effect, sunflower oil locks in natural skin moisture and protects the outer layer of the skin from all types of bacteria. To relieve the inflammation and the accompanying itching, you can apply sunflower oil directly to the skin. There’s no need to dilute it in water first, though you may achieve better results if you apply it to damp skin, preferably right after you’ve taken a shower.
3. Calendula Cream
Calendula is a plant from the daisy family known for its many skin benefits. A staple of folk medicine for centuries, calendula helps improve blood flow to injured and/or inflamed skin, keeps the skin hydrated, and prevents infections. Several topical calendula creams are available over the counter at pharmacies.
4. Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure can also help relieve the symptoms of eczema. They both help modify the flow of energy in order to reduce itching, pain, and discomfort – the former achieves this with the use of fine needles, while the latter does the same with the use of fingers. The research on the effects of acupuncture and acupressure is still in its early stages, but the results so far show great promise.
Not only is stress a known trigger for eczema but it can also have a negative effect on all aspects of your health. To relieve the symptoms of skin inflammation and irritation, it is important to find ways to cope with stress in your everyday life. Some of the most popular relaxation techniques include visualization, meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and tai chi. If you’ve been exposed to stress for a prolonged period of time, you may also need to talk to a psychologist or try cognitive behavioral therapy.
Whether you opt for a natural remedy or a medication recommended by your dermatologist, there are many effective ways to relieve the symptoms of eczema and reduce flare-ups regardless of their severity.
To prevent further flare-ups or at least reduce their intensity, you should avoid soaps and detergents that contain harsh chemicals which can irritate your skin. The same applies to scratchy materials like wool, as well as non-skin-friendly synthetic fabrics like nylon. If certain foods appear to trigger outbreaks for you, it is important to avoid them. Also, if excessive sweating is a problem for you, you should take steps to reduce it and prevent heat rashes and other types of skin irritation.
By taking good care of your skin, your mind, and your whole body, you will be able to keep your eczema under control.