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Eczema: Symptoms, Causes and New Breakthrough Treatments

Itchy, flaky, rough skin. Is it dry skin or a chronic skin condition?

There are many skin ailments that can mimic dry skin. The most common is atopic dermatitis, which is also commonly referred to as atopic eczema. It’s primarily diagnosed before the age of five and lasts a lifetime. While there is no cure – yet – there are numerous treatment options. Most notable are the recent breakthroughs that have been deemed the “biggest developments in years” by the National Eczema Association. These are exciting the world of dermatology because it means new hope for those who have yet to find the relief they are looking for.


Is it dry skin or atopic eczema?

Dry skin is a temporary condition that is more prevalent during the winter months. It often clears up with proper hydration, by avoiding long, hot showers and through the regular use of a quality moisturizer. An effective moisturizer will often have ingredients like urea, ceramides, fatty acids and glycerol. I recommend choosing a fragrance free cream or ointment rather than a lotion and applying immediately after bathing for best absorption.

Atopic eczema on the other hand is a chronic condition that can come and go based on various factors such as your environment, stress and sometimes food triggers. It’s not just dry skin or a rash and can have a significant impact on quality of life factors such as sleep and mental health.

The cause of atopic eczema is linked to the immune system. While scientists are still trying to determine why it happens, we do know that atopic eczema is a result of the  immune system becoming overactive, triggering inflammation of the skin barrier.

For the most effective treatment you should see your physician for an official diagnosis, as the symptoms of dry skin can look and feel similar to atopic eczema.


Treatment breakthroughs for atopic eczema

If you already have an atopic eczema diagnosis and your current treatment methods are not working as well as you would like, there are other options.

Treatment methods typically include a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications such as dietary interventions and environmental precautions.

In recent years, new oral and injectable medications have joined the eczema arsenal. Rather than calming the skin through topical applications, these work inside the body to reduce the overactive immune system contributing to eczema.

The first is a JAK inhibitor called Rinvoq, which is a prescription daily oral medication available for ages 12 and up. This immune modulating medication works by lessening the inflammatory pathway. It inhibits part of the body’s immune system (JAK enzymes) which help transmit signals from the immune system throughout the body. This medication is the result of 20 years of research and is an exciting development in the world of dermatology.

In addition to greatly improved skin clarity and comfort, study participants who took this JAK inhibitor also reported quality of life improvements and decreased depression and anxiety symptoms.  

The second medication is a new prescription injectable called Adtralza. It is available for those aged 18 and up. This is a biologic medication that works by inhibiting a type of protein  called  IL-13 cytokine. IL-13 contributes to the inflammation and skin barrier issues found in atopic dermatitis. This medication is best for those with moderate to severe atopic eczema.

To determine if either of these new treatments could be right for you, your physician or health care team can help assess and advise you.


Clean house, clearer skin

Did you know cleaning your house could help your atopic eczema?

It’s possible that dust mites may be exacerbating your symptoms. A new meta-analysis in the 2023 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that patients who received allergen immunotherapy, for mostly household dust mites, experienced a 50% reduction in the severity of their atopic dermatitis. If you have concurrent asthma or seasonal allergies you might consider allergen immunotherapy.

A great first step to finding relief is to ensure your home has a regular, thorough cleaning. In addition to your usual cleaning regimen, remove dust and ventilate your house by vacuuming curtains, opening windows and dusting all surfaces – including under the bed.


Finding the right treatment means finding the right team

Living with atopic dermatitis or a similar chronic skin condition is about finding a team that will help you determine the precise treatment method that works for you. At Harrison Healthcare, our Physicians can help you achieve clearer, more comfortable skin based on the latest research in medication and lifestyle modifications.

Since diet and exercise are also crucial to a healthy immune system, your Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist are here to support your journey and guide you through dietary and fitness lifestyle modifications aimed at optimizing your results. We work as a team to help you achieve all your health goals, including itch-free skin.



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