By Lauren Snitzer, MD, U.S. Dermatology Partners (see bio below)
If you’ve already been diagnosed with eczema, how do you know when it’s time to go back to the dermatologist for eczema care?
You’re already painfully familiar with the uncomfortable symptoms of eczema: red, itchy, cracked, blistered and inflamed skin. For some, flare-ups occur sporadically and cause severe symptoms. For others, it’s a chronic condition with milder symptoms.
Though eczema is an extremely common skin condition that affects some 31 million Americans, there currently is no cure. However, there are many different treatments to manage the symptoms of eczema. A dermatologist can help you find the right treatment — or combination of treatments — that works best for you.
So, once you have been diagnosed with eczema, when should you go back to the dermatologist for eczema care? Here are some general guidelines to help you out:
#1: Changing your bathing routine hasn’t helped.
Treatments for eczema vary depending on the cause and severity of your condition, but the first line of defense against dry, irritated, itchy skin is to restore moisture to your skin. Try bathing in lukewarm water (hot water can irritate and further dry your skin), using a mild, fragrance-free soap that doesn’t dry your skin and blotting your skin dry with a towel.
ILW Recommends these gentle, natural eczema soaps.
Another recommendation to avoiding eczema flare-ups is to use a high-quality moisturizer immediately after bathing and again several times throughout the day to build a barrier against dryness. Most dermatologists also recommend bathing and moisturizing at night so your moisture has a chance to fully absorb into your skin.
ILW Recommends these natural eczema creams.
If changing your bathing routine hasn’t helped, it’s time to see your dermatologist to determine what changes can be made.
#2: Your skin becomes infected.
Unfortunately, it is very common for people with eczema to develop infections caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. Because the skin is dry and often split — made worse by constant scratching — bacteria is able to easily get into the deeper layers of skin. Scratching dry skin can also help spread the infection.
ILW Recommends eczema mittens or gloves to prevent scratching and infection.
“If you are suffering from a skin infection related to your eczema, consult with your dermatologist immediately,” says Dr. Lauren Snitzer of U.S. Dermatology Partners of Houston – Sugar Land. “An antibiotic may be needed to clear up the infection before you can go back to focusing on treating the eczema itself.”
#3: Your eczema causes extreme redness, dehydration, hypothermia or swelling.
Erythroderma is a rare and severe skin condition that is caused by a number of conditions, one of which is eczema. Characterized by widespread scaling on the skin over more than 90% of the body, the condition is very serious and can even be fatal if left untreated.
Typically, erythrodermic eczema occurs in individuals with unstable or worsening eczema and can be triggered by infection, drug reactions and other factors. In-patient treatment is usually required, and complications can include dehydration, hypothermia, swelling, heart failure or even death. If you experience severe symptoms such as excessive redness, swelling, dehydration or extreme discomfort, it’s time for a professional to take a closer look.
#4: Your eczema is impacting your overall well-being.
It isn’t unusual for a chronic illness or visible skin condition such as eczema to have an impact on your overall self-confidence. If your eczema is negatively affecting your daily life, impacting the way you feel about yourself or keeping you from doing activities you enjoy, call your dermatologist.
Eczema should not cause you to suffer or withdraw socially. There are many different treatment options available to manage your eczema, reduce your symptoms and prevent or control flare-ups. Your dermatologist can work with you to find the right treatment plan. If your eczema is causing psychological distress and interfering with your daily activities, seek out a counselor to help get you through these difficult emotions.
ILW Recommends: Read more about the emotional impact of eczema.
Bio: Dr. Lauren Snitzer is a board-certified physician with U.S. Dermatology Partners, which combines the personal level of care found in private dermatology practices with the benefits of a network of physicians working closely together. As the second largest physician-owned dermatology practice in the United States, we have more than 50 locations throughout Texas and the Midwest.
Check out the free eBook from U.S. Dermatology Partners, “The Top 5 Signs It’s Time to Find a Dermatologist.”