Eczema Treatments

There is no cure for eczema, but treatment can help protect the skin and control itching, inflammation and infection. Treatment for moderate to severe eczema requires a customized approach based on recognizing the nuances of patients’ clinical presentation, identifying triggers and common problems that accompany eczema. A comprehensive treatment strategy seeks to:

  • Restore the damaged skin barrier: Every patient with eczema should use moisturizers regularly to improve the damaged skin barrier in eczema. Thicker moisturizers work better at sealing in the skin’s moisture. Some eczema creams contain ceramides (a type of lipid) and other ingredients that aim to restore the skin’s barrier function.
  • Decrease the inflammation:
    • Topical steroid creams and calcineurin (T-cell) inhibitors are typically the first choice in anti-inflammatory treatments.
    • When topical creams are not strong enough, systemic treatments can be used to get better short-term control of the inflammation, such as:
      • Phototherapy (both UV and PUVA)
      • Corticosteroid pills, liquids or injections
      • Other immunosuppression medications
  • Target the itch:
    • Antihistamines: Antihistamines have long been used as the primary treatment for itch. While they do help patients sleep better through the night, there is little evidence that they actually reduce itch.
    • Neuroactive medications: Neuroactive medications were shown to improve itch in controlled clinical trials.
    • Other medications: There are a number of other medications that can treat the itch caused by eczema. If your itch is not well controlled, please ask your physician about other treatment options.
  • Prevent infection: Oral antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause infections. Always finish a prescription for antibiotics unless otherwise directed by your physician.
  • Lifestyle changes: There are strategies you can use at home to try to control outbreaks, including:
    • Biofeedback
    • Avoiding allergens
    • Wet dressings with corticosteroid cream
    • Counseling


Related Resources

  • Medical Outcomes Research in Eczema (MORE): MORE is a study of patient-centered outcomes in adults and children with eczema. Researchers in the Northwestern University Department of Dermatology are conducting this study. We want to hear what patients have to say about their eczema and what bothers them the most from having eczema. To participate in the survey you must be at least 18 years of age and have chronic eczema, or be the parent of a minor child with chronic eczema.
  • National Eczema Association: Improving the health and quality of life for individuals with eczema through research, support and education.
  • Society for Investigative Dermatology (SID): The SID mission is to advance and promote the sciences relevant to skin health and disease through education, advocacy and scholarly exchange of scientific information.
  • American Academy of Dermatology: Our mission is to promote leadership in dermatology and excellence in patient care through education, research and advocacy.
  • Severe Eczema in Children Linked to Multiple Comorbid Conditions: Researchers set out to determine the impact of eczema severity on the development of these disorders and other non-atopic comorbidities in atopic dermatitis. (The Dermatologist, September 2013)
  • Childhood Eczema May Last Into Adulthood: Study: Despite a widespread belief that childhood eczema clears up by adolescence, a new study suggests the condition often lasts until adulthood. (Reuters, April 2014)