How Can I Avoid Infections That Can
Occur With Eczema?
Among the complications eczema causes, none is more serious than those that result from infection of the skin. Known for periods of distressful symptoms (called “flare ups”), alternating with periods of remission, eczema outbreaks most often begin with intense itching and a dry rash. Without swift treatment, aggressive scratching leads to redness, swelling, and scaling of the affected areas, the skin becomes thickened and begins to crack. Cracked skin then begins to weep, causing further inflammation and more itching. This cycle is an endless one, and the broken, moist skin soon becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Skin infections are serious, often resulting in permanent scarring of the skin or a potentially fatal blood infection. The most effective way to prevent skin infections is to prevent flare ups from occurring in the first place.
We still do not know why some people are overly sensitive to irritants and some are not. Recent research suggests that, in people with eczema, there is a malfunction of the immune system, causing the outer layer of skin to become extremely inflamed when exposed to a trigger. Once triggers such as harsh detergents, wool, pollen and pet dander are identified, it becomes easier to avoid or limit exposure to them. A diligent daily skin care routine is crucial for eczema sufferers to both prevent flare ups and control the symptoms eczema causes. Bathing should be done in tepid water using mild soap or a non soap cleanser. Skin should then be patted dry or allowed to air dry. An alcohol free cream or ointment should be applied immediately after bathing to contain moisture and prevent drying out of the skin.
When flare ups do occur, the focus of treatment shifts to reducing distressful itching. The skin care that helps prevent flare ups is also vital in controlling them. Medications in both lotion and pill form can also be helpful, especially in reducing nighttime itching. Because of potential side effects, the doctor should be consulted to prescribe or recommend an over the counter remedy. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressant drugs are sometimes needed for severely inflamed outbreaks or for prevention of frequent, recurring eczema symptoms.
These medications are not without risks, however, and patients choosing to use them should be closely monitored by a physician. Patients should watch closely for symptoms of infection (increased redness, swelling, foul odor, purulent (pus like) drainage) and report these symptoms immediately. Early treatment of the infections that poorly controlled eczema causes, is crucial to preventing scarring, and to prevent spread of infection into the bloodstream.