What are some of the current dermatologist recommended methods of treatment for eczema? Find out from Dr. Peter Lio (see bio below). Scroll down to watch the video or read on for a full transcript.
How do we treat eczema? This is my favorite question and one I’m very interested in: how do we get people better?
Well we can think about a few different areas. We want to find and eliminate any possible triggers that we can. This can be more difficult than it sounds because some triggers are allergens that we can actually identify, but some are simply irritants and we don’t necessarily know which is going to be a higher yield. Sometimes people are not able to avoid those triggers because of a job or their family situation, so we have to work with them.
Once we’ve avoided the triggers, we like to think of a few different areas:
The Skin Barrier
The first and most important is the skin barrier. We want to support and strengthen that skin barrier because it keeps the water in our skin and keeps out all the allergens, irritants, bacteria, viruses and even fungus that can enter our skin and worsen the disease. Using natural oils and moisturizers can help protect the barrier.
The second part is anti-inflammatory. The immune system is there to protect us, but with eczema it seems to be going haywire. It attacks the skin barrier, making itch, which causes us to scratch. We want to slow that inflammation down and there are a number of anti-inflammatory creams that can be used and in more severe cases more powerful systemic medications to help with the itch. There’s also phototherapy or light therapy to cool down the inflammation.
This is very closely related to the itch because we know that much of the itch is caused by inflammation. For the itch you can use things like camphor, menthol and sometimes even pramoxine or topical agents that cool the skin. Many of my patients like to use ice packs. Ice can have a soothing effect on the nerves, which cools the itch.
Finally, we have bacteria, which is a hot topic in dermatology. Bacterial overgrowth seems to be playing a role in atopic dermatitis. We’re trying to understand how to get rid of the staph bacteria (which is creating a toxin called “delta toxin”) that seems to fuel the disease. We do not know everything about this yet and we’re still trying to find out the safest and most gentle way to cure the disease.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a cure yet, but we can get most patients better so that they can resume a normal life, get back to feeling good, sleeping well and most importantly being able to concentrate on the things they want to be focused on, rather than always focusing on their skin.
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Bio: Dr. Peter Lio is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Pediatrics at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center and very passionate about finding safe treatments that work for eczema. Dr. Lio received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, completed his internship at Boston Children’s Hospital and his dermatology training at Harvard. He has had formal training in acupuncture under Kiiko Matsumoto and David Euler, and has held a long interest in alternative medicines. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the National Eczema Association. His clinical office is located at Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago.