Chronic, Itchy Skin Condition

Eczema – also known as dermatitis – is a chronic, itchy and inflammatory skin condition. There are two main eczema types:

  • Atopic dermatitis: Predominately a childhood disease, although adults may continue to have patches of eczema on the hands, feet and elsewhere.
  • Contact dermatitis: Caused by exposure to irritating or allergenic chemicals contacting the skin. Can occur at any time in the patient’s life.

Our skilled team of dermatologists at Penn State Health are here to help diagnose and treat your eczema. We see more than 40,000 patients each year, so you can rest assured that you are in the very best hands. For your convenience, our team offers evening clinic hours, as well as an innovative open-access clinic for acute situations.

If you or a loved one have eczema, there is good news: with the correct treatment, eczema can be controlled. We are here to help ease your skin discomfort and get you back to your active lifestyle.

Eczema Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

During your visit, the dermatologist will look at your skin and perform a physical exam. You may need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Allergy skin testing may also help people with hard-to-treat atopic dermatitis, allergy symptoms or rashes that appear only on certain areas of the body after exposure to specific irritants.

Once your eczema is diagnosed, our team will work with you to reduce the itching and inflammation of your skin. At Penn State Health, we typically start with several nonprescription options, including:

  • Antihistamine: over-the-counter medications like Benadryl will help reduce itching.
  • Avoiding irritants: stay away from harsh soap, wool clothes, irritating chemicals and uncomfortable climates.
  • Use mild soap: wash your skin with warm (not hot) water using a mild soap such as Dove, Oil of Olay Sensitive Skin or Cetaphil.
  • Moisturize frequently: use a hydrating moisturizer regularly, particularly after bathing or showering. Our team recommends Cetaphil, Lubriderm, Neutrogena, CeraVe and plain petroleum jelly.
  • Soothing baths: taking a soothing bath to help decrease your skin’s irritation. Our team suggests trying Aveeno Oatmeal Bath Treatment or Cutar Emulsion Tar Solution.

If these suggestions still don’t provide relief, your dermatologist might recommend prescription medications or in-office eczema treatments, including:

  • Antibiotics: if your skin is infected from eczema, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to help eliminate the infection.
  • Protopic/Elidel: non-steroid anti-inflammatory agents that are considered safe.
  • Steroids: our team sometimes prescribes steroids to help provide temporary relief. Topical steroids cause thinning of the skin, so it’s best to use them sparingly.
  • Ultraviolet light: can be used to reduce inflammation and itching.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Highest-Ranked Clinic in Patient Satisfaction

As one of the highest-ranked clinics for patient satisfaction within Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the dermatology team put our patients’ needs as our top priority. Our department is also nationally recognized with many of our providers listed in the Best Doctors in America national database.

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