Eczema Treatment

Unfortunately, a definitive eczema cure does not exist at present. Researchers are working hard to determine the exact cause of the condition; and once the cause is discovered, the chances of finding an eczema cure will hopefully increase dramatically. Until an eczema cure is discovered, however, a wide range of eczema treatments is available to help reduce itching and other symptoms.

Topical Treatments:

Coal Tar, Hydrocortisone Cream and TIMs

Topical eczema treatments cover a wide range, from remedies hundreds of years old to the latest in anti-inflammatory products. Moisturizers are the most common topical treatments. Ointments, creams and lotions can “lock” moisture in, preventing the skin from drying out and cracking. If this proves ineffective, other topical treatments may be used:

Treatment Description Side Effects
Coal Tar Coal tar has been used to treat the itching and inflammation caused by skin conditions for hundreds of years. The tar contains chemicals that soothe the skin. Coal tar is very sticky and messy. It can cause sun sensitivity, and may irritate acute dermatitis.
Hydrocortisone Cream Hydrocortisone cream is a topical corticosteroid. Corticosteroids are a family of effective anti-inflammatory drugs. Hydrocortisone cream loses its effectiveness over time, however. Corticosteroids can cause thin skin, stretch marks and excess body hair. They are not recommended for long-term use.
Topical Immunomodulators Topical immunomodulators (TIMs) are a new type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Clinical trials suggest 80% of eczema cases treated with TIMs clear up or significantly improve. Mild burning sensations have been reported when applying TIMs. In general, however, TIMs have fewer side effects than corticosteroids.

Oral Treatments:

Antibiotics, Antihistamines and Corticosteroids

Oral eczema treatments are not used as frequently as topical therapies. However, oral medication may be required to treat complications, or especially severe cases of eczema.

Treatment Description Side Effects
Antibiotics Damaged skin is susceptible to bacterial infection. People living with eczema tend to develop more skin infections than others. Antibiotics, topical or oral, may be required to treat the infection. Many different types of antibiotics are available. Consult your medical professional to find out about the side effects of antibiotics prescribed to you.
Antihistamines Antihistamines are occasionally prescribed to control itching and help the eczema sufferer sleep. Their effectiveness as anti-itch medication is limited, however, as histamines are not an important component of eczema-associated itching. Antihistamines can make you very drowsy. Driving while on antihistamines is not recommended.
Corticosteroids Severe cases may be treated with oral corticosteroids. The dose is higher than with hydrocortisone cream, and the chance of having side effects is greater. Corticosteroids have a long list of side effects. They should not be used for extended periods of time. Check with your doctor.


Phototherapy involves the use of light to treat a medical condition. Ultraviolet light therapy improves eczema symptoms in some people. Phototherapy may only use ultraviolet light, or may combine the use of ultraviolet light with psoralen, a drug that increases light sensitivity.

While ultraviolet rays occur naturally in sunlight, excessive sun exposure causes sunburn, which can make symptoms worsen. Phototherapy uses carefully measured amounts of ultraviolet light, a safety measure that cannot be duplicated by simple exposure to the sun.

Diet and Eczema

Whether diet plays a role in eczema management or not is a matter of debate. Many people insist that removing certain foods from their diets led to significant improvement in their eczema. No one food has yet been isolated as a cause of eczema, however, and a scientific “eczema diet” has yet to be developed. No single diet has been identified and proven effective for a broad population base. If you wish to try altering your diet to control eczema, keep a food diary and note days when your symptoms improved or worsened in the time period after a particular food was ingested or eliminated.

Resources (nd). Treating eczema. Retrieved June 19, 2002, from

National Eczema Association for Science and Education. (nd). Living with eczema. Retrieved June 19, 2002, from

National Eczema Society. (nd). Eczema: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved June 20, 2002, from

New Zealand Dermatological Society. (updated 2002). Skin conditions