Cure for Eczema?

The simple truth, sadly, is no.

There is currently no cure for eczema.

Here’s why.

Researchers have found that dry, irritated skin can be traced to a defective gene. The filaggrin gene codes for a protein that’s responsible for organizing the keratin barrier between our skin the outside world. Imagine your skin as a vast tile floor that someone has neglected to properly grout. External irritants are able to get down between the skin cells causing irritation, redness and itching. This may even contribute to allergies. It also can make it difficult to modulate body temperature and sweat.

Since the filaggrin defect is at the genetic level, there is no known way to correct it right now. So there is no cure for eczema—it remains a chronic skin problem with dryness, irritation, and itching.

Eczema can, however, be controlled. The key is emollients. These are the rich moisturizers that pave over the filaggrin problem and beef up the skin’s barrier.

The best moisturizers are emollients: these are the greasier ones like Eucerin, Aquaphor, Cetaphil, etc.  Avoid lotions, creams and gels: they can be drying.

One way to care for eczema is the Moisturizing Bath Regimen.

  • Soak in the bath water for 15 minute minimum without any soap.
  • Wash with the minimum amount of gentle soap and shampoo.
  • Rinse with clear water.
  • Pat dry briefly once out of the tub.
  • Apply emollients after the bath and repeat as needed.

Another way of treating eczema involves avoiding frequent bathing as this can strip oils from the skin. As your pediatrician about the best way to treat your child’s eczema.

Keep in mind that a defective skin barrier can increase the risk of skin infections. Some very bad eczema flares may also need to be treated like a bacterial infection before they can heal.

Read more about eczema from the American Academy of Dermatology here.

Read more about filaggrin research here.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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