Eczema - what works for me

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Eczema - what works for me

Postby PamelaS » Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:03 pm

As some of you know I have lymph. in my right arm and hand - also have eczema on the hands and part of the arms. My doctors have stated that the eczema many times goes hand in hand with allergies and asthma and I've got both.

What has worked best is to first apply aloe and let that sink in. Next apply a moisturizer with oatmeal in it, like Aveeno or Suave. This really seems to take care of the dryness and helps with the scaling. So far it is working.

My skin is not as dry or tight - much more comfortable. I don't know how common it is to have eczema with lymph. but hope this helps someone.

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Postby patoco » Sun Jun 25, 2006 6:10 am

Thanks Pamela :D

I have actually heard of the aloe with the oatmeal before and that it has really helped soften the skin.

From what I have seen, there seems to be a large number of those of us with lymphedema also having eczema. I had it terribly in a couple spots on each leg when I was growing up.

My children, even as adults still have problems with it.

It is very important for us to understand to that if we have it, we must be diligent in treating exzema.

Untreated it can cause cracks and open areas in the skin. These can be entry points (even ones we don't see) for bacteria and the start of an infection.

Here is a bit of info on Eczema.


Eczema is an inflammation of the skin which may cause dryness, flakiness, heat, and probably most importantly, itching. Dermatitis is a term which is sometimes connected, in people's minds, with exposure to chemicals. It really only means inflammation of the skin, and could be used interchangeably with eczema, as it often is by doctors.

Eczema can be caused by a number of different factors, and may result in just a small patch of skin being affected, but can affect skin anywhere on the body.


Whatever causes your eczema, it leads to itching and redness, and may make the skin dry and flaky. Sometimes, itchy blisters form. When these burst, or when scratching damages the skin, the surface may be left moist and crusty.

Often, in the commonest form of eczema (atopic eczema), the problem is worst in the folds of the skin where your limbs bend.

The itch is intense, and makes you want to scratch. You should avoid this if you possibly can, as scratching only makes the symptoms worse. People say that if you have to do anything, gentle rubbing, with the flat of your hands, is better than scratching.

Whatever the cause of your eczema, the skin becomes more sensitive, and you may well notice that you are more easily upset by cosmetics, soaps, detergents, etc.


Many things cause eczema. The commonest is a general allergic over sensitivity (atopy). This sort of eczema is known as atopic eczema, and it is linked with asthma and hayfever. That is, these conditions often run together in a family.

The other possible causes include:

Infantile eczema which often affects young babies. This may lead to a patch below their chins, which gets wettest from dribbling, and may be associated with cradle cap.

Contact with substances which irritate the skin chemically. This is caused by direct contact between the skin and the substance, which might be such things as detergents, soaps, diesel or engine oils, strong chemicals, cleaners etc.

Contact with substances which the body has become allergic to. Commonly this involves nickel, rubbers etc. If a woman was sensitive to nickel in the past it would cause a reaction where the bra hooks and suspenders came near her skin, as these typically contained nickel. Plastics have helped to overcome this risk, but jewellery and watches are still a common cause. Suddenly people need to spend a bit more on their presents to you!

Varicose veins can lead to a form of eczema affecting the lower legs. This is known as varicose or gravitational eczema. As well as treatment of the skin, it is important to improve the blood circulation in the legs, and for most people this includes wearing support stockings and staying active on your feet. Your doctor will discuss the options


Your doctor will usually come to the diagnosis from examining you. If in doubt, or if he or she feels that you need further tests, then you may be referred to a skin specialist (dermatologist).

Further tests may include blood tests, patch tests (where little patches of different substances are stuck to your skin for a few days, to see if you react to any of them) and other allergy tests.


There is essentially no cure for eczema. It involves a sensitivity of the skin that you are likely to have to some degree from now on. There are, however, a number of approaches which help to minimise your symptoms.

The mainstay of treatment is moisturising the skin. For this we use creams, ointments and shower and bath oils which help to replenish the skin's natural protective oils.

You should discuss these with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. Washing tends to dry out the skin and make eczema worse. It helps to use an emollient cream as a substitute for soap, and you can apply it liberally at other times during the day. The special bath oils and shower gels also leave a coating of oils on the skin. Some of the creams and oils contain an antiseptic, as it has been found that eczema often flares up as a result of a germ infecting the skin.

Your doctor may prescribe a cream or ointment containing a steroid (topical steroid). These are very effective at reducing inflammation and itch. Your doctor will want you to use this sparingly, and only while the eczema is bad. There are different strengths of steroid applications, and the tendency is to use the lowest strength that the skin requires at the time, in order to minimise the risk of possible side effects of using steroids.

In moderate to severe atopic eczema, where topical steroid treatment has not worked, your doctor may prescribe a new type of treatment to be applied to the skin (topical treatment). The preparations are made from a type of drug known as immunomodulators (calcineurin inhibitors, eg tacrolimus and pimecrolimus) that are used, when taken internally, for such things as preventing rejection of transplanted organs. They are strong drugs, but given as an ointment they do not affect your general immunity, and the main possible side effect is a burning sensation. They are certainly effective on atopic eczema and, used under the supervision of your doctor, may make a difference where the previous treatments were not doing enough. In England and Wales there are guidelines on their usage from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

Antihistamines taken by mouth may be helpful in reducing the itch. Your doctor will advise.

If the skin becomes obviously infected, which is more likely as its normal protective surface has been damaged, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.

There are a number of older fashioned remedies which are still effective and may be suggested by your doctor or specialist. For example tars, menthol.

Evening primrose oil supplements are used for eczema, and are a safe treatment, but have not consistently proved to be effective in research trials. It would appear that the evidence may not support them being any more effective than capsules or medicine containing no active ingredient (placebo).

If the skin is not responding well, your doctor will probably ask a skin specialist (dermatologist) to see you. There are a number of options that the specialist may use. These may include:

Bandages and wet wraps.
Drugs to suppress the immune system of the body as a whole. These are only used in severe cases, and include Cyclosporin, a drug otherwise mainly used to stop rejection in patients receiving transplants.
Phototherapy. Ultra-violet light treatment (UVB and PUVA) can be used in the treatment of atopic eczema. Ultra-violet therapy potentially increases the risks of skin cancer, so it is only used in severe cases.
Naturally, if your eczema is a result of a specific allergy or sensitivity, then it is wise to avoid the thing which causes it if you can.


Use the cream or ointment which your doctor recommends on a regular basis, and as a soap substitute, to keep the skin supple and to prevent drying.

Avoid scratching when you itch. If you can not stop yourself, then gently rubbing, with the flat of your hand, is less likely to do damage.

Avoid exposure to chemicals and strong detergents. It is usually better to avoid using biological agents altogether. Use protective gloves when you use such things in the house or at work.

If you have been found to be allergic to a specific substance, avoid contact with it, if this is feasible.

Use your treatments according to the instructions from your doctor and the pharmacist.

Further Information

British National Eczema Society

American Academy of Dermatology EczemaNet

EczemaLetters, information provided by a consultant dermatologist


What Is Eczema?

Eczema (pronounced: ek-zeh-ma) is a group of skin conditions that cause skin to become irritated. Teens who have it may develop rashes more easily and more frequently than others. There are many forms of eczema, but atopic (pronounced: ay-tah-pik) eczema is the most common form. Doctors don't know exactly what causes atopic eczema, also called atopic dermatitis (pronounced: der-muh-tie-tis), but they think it's caused by a difference in the way a person's immune system reacts to things. Skin allergies may be involved in some forms of eczema.

If you have eczema, you're probably not the only one you know who has it. Eczema isn't contagious like a cold or mono, but most people with eczema have family members with the same condition, so researchers think it's inherited or passed through the genes. In general, it's fairly common - about 3% of all the people in the United States have eczema.

People with eczema also may have asthma and certain allergies, such as hay fever. In some people with eczema, food allergies (such as allergies to cow's milk, soy, eggs, fish, or wheat) may bring on or worsen eczema. Allergies to animal dander, rough fabrics, and dust may also trigger the condition in some teens.

Signs and Symptoms
It can be difficult to avoid all the triggers, or irritants, that may cause your eczema to flare or become worse. In teens and young adults, the itchy patches of eczema usually break out where the elbow bends; on the backs of the knees, ankles, and wrists; and on the face, neck, and upper chest - although any part of the body can be affected.

If you have eczema, at first your skin may feel hot and itchy. Then, if you scratch, your skin may become red, inflamed, or blistered. Some teens who have eczema scratch their skin so much it becomes almost leathery in texture. Other teens find that their skin becomes extremely dry and scaly. Even though a lot of teens experience eczema, the symptoms quite a bit from person to person.

What Do Doctors Do?

If you think you have eczema, your best bet is to visit your doctor. He or she may refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions. Diagnosing atopic eczema can be difficult because it may be confused with other skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, which occurs when your skin comes in contact with an irritating substance like the perfume in a certain detergent.

In addition to doing a physical examination, the doctor will ask you about any concerns and symptoms you have, your past health, your family's health, any medications you're taking, any allergies you may have, and other issues. This is called the medical history. Your doctor will also help you identify things in your environment that may be contributing to your skin irritation. For example, if you started using a new shower gel or body lotion before the symptoms appeared, mention this to your doctor because a substance in the cream or lotion might be irritating your skin.

Emotional stress can lead to eczema flares, so your doctor might also ask you about any stress you're feeling at home, school, or work.

Once your doctor has diagnosed the condition, he or she may suggest avoiding the things that may be triggers for your eczema. The doctor may also prescribe medications to soothe the redness and irritation of eczema. External creams or ointments that contain corticosteroids are frequently prescribed to help control itching. Your doctor might also recommend medications you take internally, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids. In teens who have severe eczema, ultraviolet light therapy may help clear up their condition and make them more comfortable. Newer medications that change the way the skin's immune system reacts are also prescribed in some cases.

Allergy testing is sometimes used to help people who have eczema that doesn't respond to normal treatment, especially if a teen has asthma or seasonal allergies.

If a person is tested for food allergies, he or she may be given certain foods (such as eggs, milk, soy, or nuts) and observed to see if the food causes an eczema flare. Food allergy testing can also be done by pricking the person's skin with an extract of the food substance and observing the reaction. But sometimes allergy testing can be misleading because the person may have an allergic reaction to a food that is not causing the eczema flare.

If a person is tested for allergy to dyes or fragrances, a patch of the substance will be placed against the person's skin and he or she will be monitored to see if skin irritation develops.

Can I Prevent Eczema?

Eczema can't be cured, but there are plenty of things you can do to prevent a flare. For facial eczema, wash gently with a nondrying facial cleanser or soap substitute, use a facial moisturizer that says noncomedogenic/oil-free, and apply only hypoallergenic makeup and sunscreens. In addition, the following tips may help:

Avoid triggers and substances that stress skin. Besides your known triggers, some things you may want to avoid include household cleaners, detergents, lotions, and harsh soaps.

H20 is a no-no. Too much exposure to water can dry out your skin, so take short warm, not hot, showers and baths and wear gloves if your hands will be in water for long periods of time.

Say yes to cotton. Clothes made of scratchy fabric like wool can irritate your skin. Cotton clothes are a better bet.

Moisturize! An unfragranced moisturizer such as petroleum jelly will prevent your skin from becoming irritated and cracked.

Don't scratch that itch. Even though it's difficult to resist, scratching your itch can worsen eczema and make it more difficult for the skin to heal because you can break the skin and bacteria can get in, causing an infection.

Keep it cool. Sudden changes in temperature, sweating, and becoming overheated may cause your eczema to kick into action.

Take your meds. Follow your doctor's or dermatologist's directions and take your medication as directed.

Chill out. Stress can aggravate eczema, so try to relax.

Dealing With Eczema
There's good news if you have eczema - usually eczema will go away before the age of 25. Until it clears up, you'll have to deal with it, even though at best it's annoying and at worst it can make you want to stay in your room and hide.

If you have eczema and can't wear certain types of makeup, find brands that are free of fragrances and dyes. Your dermatologist may be able to recommend some brands that will help keep you looking great and are less likely to irritate your skin.

Your self-esteem doesn't have to suffer just because you have eczema, and neither does your social life! Getting involved in your school and extracurricular activities can be a great way to get your mind off the itch. If certain activities will aggravate your eczema, such as swimming in a heavily chlorinated pool, suggest activities to your friends that won't harm your skin.

Even if sweat tends to aggravate your skin, it's still a good idea to exercise. Exercise is a great way to blow off stress - just try walking, bike riding, or another sport that keeps your skin cool and dry while you work out.

Updated and reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2003
Originally reviewed by: Patrice Hyde, MD ... czema.html


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