Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Eczema

Thursday, April 26, 2007
Eczema, or dermatitis, is a skin condition that can lead to a range of symptoms from dry, hot, red, itchy skin through to raw, broken or even bleeding skin in extreme cases.

Question:
What would you recommend to help clear eczema?

Answer:
Eczema, or dermatitis, is a skin condition that can lead to a range of symptoms from dry, hot, red, itchy skin through to raw, broken or even bleeding skin in extreme cases. While there is no magic cure for eczema, there are certainly various treatments available that can help manage or clear it on an ongoing basis as needed.

First, though, it's worth working out if there are any possible trigger factors that may be making your dermatitis worse. Soaps, detergents, chemicals, latex, nickel found in jewellery and buckles are among the possible triggers that need to be excluded. Ideally you should avoid any of these if they make your skin react.

In terms of management, the usual approach for dermatitis is to avoid soap and use an emollient cream to help hydrate the skin. A topical steroid cream which settles inflammation is often added too. It's wise to talk to your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and to talk through your options. There is a huge range of topical steroid treatments to choose from and the strength and type will depend on a person's age, the severity of their condition and the location of the dermatitis. Occasionally, in severe instances, oral steroids may also be recommended.

Eczema can be a complex condition and we are constantly learning more about the interplay between genetics, environment and other factors like stress that may influence the picture. Research is also currently looking at topical treatments that help modulate the immune response on the skin. Stay tuned. For more information contact your GP.


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