All About Eczema (or Atopic Dermatitis)

Although eczema is difficult to deal with, it’s estimated that nearly 35 million Americans suffer from it each year. This common skin condition can impact your life physically by its irritation, but also emotionally by its prevalent presence on your skin.

Here to help us break down some facts about this skin condition is Elizabeth Drumm, FNP-C, DCNP.

What is eczema?

Eczema is an itchy rash presenting on dry skin. Atopic dermatitis is a characteristic form of eczema in those with associated allergies and/or asthma.

The cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. Genetic and environmental predisposing factors do exist.

Patients with atopic dermatitis have a skin barrier defect that contributes to their dry skin. This defect leads to decreased ceramides, which normally help limit moisture loss, and therefore there is increased water loss and subsequent dryness of the skin. There are further immunologic abnormalities that also play a role.Additionally, many environmental factors will aggravate and trigger this condition. These include dry winter months (heating), many non-hypoallergenic detergents and soaps, smoke, prolonged hot showers, environmental allergens, and so on.

Most frequently, infants and children have this condition. A small number will continue into and/or begin in adulthood. There is typically a family history of atopic dermatitis.

How does eczema present?

ITCHING and dry skin are hallmarks of atopic dermatitis. The presentation of this skin condition can vary, however. Some may find that if it’s more severe, their skin becomes red, slightly inflamed, and irritated.

How is an eczema flare prevented?

Here are a few ways to prevent eczema flares:

  • Apply gentle moisturizers daily: such as CeraVe, Cetaphil, Aveeno, or Eucerin.
  • You should choose moisturizers that include ceramides (to replace the loss, see above)
  • Do not use too hot of water in a shower or bath. Limit the time in shower or bath
  • Moisturize entire skin within 3 minutes of getting out of shower or bath
  • Use hypoallergenic products: such as Free and Clear detergent, and Vanicream or Dove products
  • Avoid the use of dryer sheets or fabric softener
  • Use kitchen gloves with cleaning or dish-work

What is an eczema flare and how is it treated?

Application of prescription medication, such as topical steroids, as discussed with your physician or other provider. Depending on the flare, phototherapy or other oral medications may be recommended.

In addition, daily oral antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra) or loratadine (Claritin) may be beneficial. You can discuss further with your physician or other provider.

There is a risk for bacterial or viral secondary infections within your eczema flare. This may require other topical or oral medications.

If there is any concern, you should schedule an appointment to be evaluated in clinic!

About Elizabeth Drumm, FNP-C, DCNP

Elizabeth Drumm image

Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. While working as a pediatric nurse, she completed the Family Nurse Practitioner program and earned her Master’s Degree from DePaul University in 2013. Initially, Ms. Drumm practiced as a Nurse Practitioner in pediatric hematology/oncology.  Prior to joining Dermatology Associates of LaGrange, Ms. Drumm completed an intensive two-year Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Fellowship training at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. During this time, she presented on topics in medical dermatology, spent time in dermatology specialty clinics, and attended weekly grand rounds and lectures at the Boston hospitals.

Elizabeth has extensive medical experience, ranging from child and adolescent health care to hematology and oncology, where she then found her passion for dermatology. She enjoys all aspects of medical dermatology, primarily skin cancer screening/prevention and skin rashes.

Read more about Elizabeth here.


Sadeghain A, High W, Burgin S. Atopic Dermatitis. In: Goldsmith LN, ed. VisualDx. Rochester, NY: VisualDx; 2016