If you’ve got frustratingly itchy eczema, you may feel like the rest of the world is off living an irritation-free, silky-skinned life. But in reality, more than 31 million people in the United States alone have atopic dermatitis (AD) or another form of eczema, according to the National Eczema Association.
There’s currently no tried-and-true cure for the condition, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with a constant barrage of scratch-filled days. Eczema is treatable.
Keep reading to learn more about how to deal with eczema, including quick fixes for relief from symptoms.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but eczema isn’t curable right now — as in poof, gone like magic, never-have-to-think-about-it-again curable. But it is treatable. So, maybe you won’t think about it so much or feel so dang itchy.
Here’s the scoop: Eczema can often follow a cycle of flares followed by periods of remission. Flares are when you have more patches of intensely itchy, dry skin. And remission is when those irritating symptoms go away for a time.
With an effective treatment plan and skin care routine, you might be able to spend more time in that paradise called remission. Although remission doesn’t mean you’re officially cured, having fewer days of itching might feel kind of like you are.
Technically you might have it forever. But periods of remission can last years and treatments can make flares much less intense. Exactly how long flares and symptom-free periods last is totally unique to each individual.
In some cases, kids will develop eczema that improves or resolves as they get older. For other people, eczema is a chronic condition that lasts their whole lives.
But typically, eczema’s not a persistent problem (meaning you probably won’t have symptoms 24/7).
When you do get a flare, it could take a few weeks for a treatment to work. If left untreated, however, the flare could get worse, so it’s important to find a treatment that works to provide much-needed relief for itchy and dry skin.
The best treatment for eczema depends on the type of eczema you have and a bunch of other factors, like how severe your flare is and how often you’re dealing with inflamed patches of skin.
Treatments for eczema range from lifestyle changes and skin care routines to over-the-counter (OTC) remedies and prescription meds. Not every treatment works for every person, so you may need to go through a little trial-and-error before you find something that works for you.
Here are a few common eczema treatments to consider:
- OTC itch relief. An OTC hydrocortisone cream can calm the itch factor when you’re experiencing a flare. Apply first before any moisturizer.
- Medicated shampoo. If you’ve got seborrheic dermatitis on your scalp (aka dandruff), you may want to pick up a medicated shampoo, available OTC at drugstores. They contain active ingredients to lift flakes and combat yeast overgrowth to help manage dermatitis on your scalp.
- Prescription meds. If you’re prone to frequent flares, your dermatologist might prescribe meds to help keep your immune system from overreacting to what it perceives as triggers. Some meds are ointments you apply directly to your skin (such as topical calcineurin inhibitors and steroids). Other prescriptions are for oral meds, like immunosuppressants and steroids.
- Soak and seal. This is a bathing method recommended by the National Eczema Association. It involves taking a short, lukewarm bath using gentle cleanser, then lightly drying your skin, and applying prescription topical medication, high-oil moisturizer, and dressings or wet wraps.
- Natural and complementary remedies. Some people with eczema use a variety of complementary and alternative treatments, such as applying coconut oil or sunflower oil to their skin, reducing stress with yoga or meditation, getting a massage, or taking certain vitamins and supplements. Evidence for these methods can be limited, though, so keep that in mind as you try different things.
- Injectables. A doctor may recommend an injectable medication called a biologic that you take regularly to block immune system chemical messengers that are responsible for flares.
You may be able to calm a flare fast with wet wrap therapy, often used multiple times per day or overnight.
Shower or bathe in warm (but not hot!) water, using a fragrance-free, nonsoap cleanser. Towel off without rubbing, leaving your skin slightly damp. Apply any topical meds.
Then, add your ceramide moisturizer. Next, apply pieces of damp gauze (aka your wet wraps) over patches of affected skin.
Finally, get cozy in your PJs and let the wet wraps work their magic. If the eczema is on your hands or feet, you can use cotton gloves or socks in place of the gauze and then add food-grade plastic wrap over the top.
Just because there’s no cure for eczema yet, doesn’t mean you have to sit back and endure nonstop itching and dry skin for weeks on end.
A number of different treatments can help you spend less time in frustrating flare-mode and enjoy stretches of itch-free remission. Some treatments require a prescription from a doctor, while others are OTC creams and lifestyle changes you can try right away.
If you’re having frequent flares that interfere with your daily activities, chat with a doctor. A new treatment plan may be just what you need to crush those itch-filled days.