Light therapy relieves itch of eczema

Light therapy relieves itch of eczema

Is there help for eczema? — Angie's List member Helen Brossy, Hollywood, S.C.

Eczema, or dermatitis, is a broad term that describes several types of the skin disease characterized by an itchy rash — the most common and severe form called atopic dermititis.

A number of different treatments, from medications to light therapy, provide relief, says Dr. Harvey Leo, a physician member of the National Eczema Association's Scientific Advisory Committee.

In milder cases, over-the-counter topical creams and medications, such as Benadryl, are enough to soothe the itch, while light therapy works for others.

"Certain wavelengths of light can make eczema better," Leo says.

Sometimes sunlight can help, he says, but you'll want to see your dermatologist and skip the tanning booth.

In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe wet wrap therapy. This involves gauze bandages wrapped around dry, itchy areas to replenish the skin's moisture.

Doctors prescribe strong steroid-based drugs, which are taken orally or injected, as a last resort since serious side effects, such as glaucoma and high blood pressure, can occur.

In addition to treating physical symptoms, don't be afraid to ask for help addressing psychological effects of the disease, Leo says. Eczema can disrupt sleep, dampen mood and leave patients frustrated. But emotional problems, left unchecked, will only make eczema worse.

Just remember, if you're seeing multiple specialists for a hard-to-treat case, such as a dermatologist and an allergist, see to it that they're talking to each other.

"As a patient, it's important to advocate for yourself," Leo says.

Do you have a health question? E-mail us at

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