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Eczema — With Eczema Awareness Month fast-approaching and set to begin on October 1st., Dr. Bernard Gasch takes a minute to discuss this condition, which can often be uncomfortable as well as debilitating.

“Eczema is a chronic skin condition, which flares periodically. When the condition flares, intensely itchy, rough, bright-red, and occasionally blistering rashes may appear on the skin,” Dr. Gasch says. Approximately 15 million Americans suffer from eczema, yet many never seek professional help for their condition. According to Dr. Gasch, it is important that patients seek advice from a dermatologist, who can give them various up-to-date and effective treatment options in hopes of not only resolving their eczema, but also preventing it from becoming widespread as well as infected.

Dr. Gasch explains that although eczema may appear on any part of the body, it is  usually found on the arms and legs. Despite the exact cause of eczema being unknown, many have linked it to genetics, as well as dry skin.  In many cases, eczema, or atopic dermatitis, first appears in early childhood in children who suffer from environmental allergies. The initial eczema may improve with age, but often later manifests as skin allergic contact rashes, such as to fragrances and preservatives found in products applied to the skin.

“Eczema flares may be triggered by any number of factors including contact with soaps, shampoos, lotions, or even laundry detergents containing fragrances, preservatives, or certain dyes.  It may also be worsened with contact with coarse materials found in clothing, including wool, especially in the wintertime.  Stress, environmental allergies, and fighting off a cold or infection may also lead to an eczema flare,” says Dr. Gasch.

“I always tell my patients to avoid scratching their skin even when it is itchy.”  We have various strategies including topical and oral agents which can help our patients with itching, all in an attempt to avoid scratching.  Scratching will cause further irritation and cause the flare-up to become worse.

Patients must also be aware that, while there is no cure for eczema, there are plenty of effective treatment options. Although each patient’s needs differ, common treatments are prescription anti-inflammatory creams and oral medications, if needed.  Also, if the skin becomes infected from scratching, oral antibiotics may be helpful.  Nevertheless, appropriate moisturizers are necessary to hydrate the skin and form a protective barrier against contact allergens which the patient might be sensitive or even allergic to.

Dr. Gasch also emphasizes the importance of “patch test” skin allergy testing, especially in teens and adults who may be suffering from eczema-related rashes such as Contact Dermatitis.  This form of skin testing is totally different from skin “prick tests” that are administered by allergists for discovering triggers for environmental allergies and asthma, not skin allergies.  Skin patch testing, on the other hand, is performed by certain dermatology practices, including Dr. Gasch and Dr. Rydzik”s Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery.  This testing reveals what the patient’s skin is allergic to.  In other words, this testing identifies which ingredient the patient may be coming in contact with which may be causing or contributing to their eczema or eczema-related skin rash.

With Eczema Awareness Month set to begin in October, Dr. Gasch also says his practice will continue to emphasize the importance of patient education when it comes to controlling eczema and contact dermatitis.

Many patients who suffer from eczema and contact dermatitis are not only bothered by the fact that their skin is itching and has rashes, which maybe keeping them awake at night, but are also self-conscious about the appearance of their skin.  Patients need to be aware that there are millions of people out there with same concerns, and that many of their symptoms can be relieved with the professional help of a qualified Dermatologist.  I will continue to promote eczema education for my patients, and I will continue to encourage anyone with eczema to consult a compassionate, board-certified dermatologist who will help them manage their skin symptoms effectively.”