Three ways to manage atopic eczema

Three ways to manage atopic eczema

Experts share advice on how to treat atopic eczema - a chronic, inflammatory skin disease characterised by unpredictable flare-ups. 

Eczema sufferer
Woman suffering from eczema/ iStock

Eczema is a skin condition that affects numerous people, especially children.  

Those that suffer from chronic eczema have to deal with dry and itchy skin almost every day.

National Eczema Week, which is celebrated from 14-18 September, aims to create awareness and improve understanding about the condition. 

Dr Alicia McMaster, Head of Medical for Speciality Care at Sanofi, says atopic eczema can be "incredibly difficult on patients and their families".  She says the condition seriously impacts their daily lives and quality of life.

“An individual’s overall health and well-being can be severely impaired by the disease. Patients and families are at the core of this year’s World Atopic Eczema Day. Working together with the  Allergy Foundation South Africa, on September 14th we will come together and unite for action and recognition of the importance of this disease. 

"Together, we #CareForAtopicEczema. It connects everyone who shares the consequences of the illness and encourages them to talk about their experiences," she says. 

 ALSO READ: How to help your eczema-suffering child

What is atopic eczema?

Atopic eczema is also known as Atopic Dermatitis (AD). Atopic Eczema, which is one of the forms of eczema, is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease characterised by unpredictable flare-ups driven in part by a malfunction in the immune system.

Despite common misconceptions that AD is “just” a skin condition, it is a systemic inflammatory disease that can have a significant physical and psychological impact on people with AD, many of whom are unable to adequately achieve control of their condition. 

Moderate-to-severe AD is associated with inflamed skin and intense itching that can occur all over the body. Common areas affected include the knees, elbows, ankles, face, neck, feet, hands, and wrists. Unpredictable flare-ups, or exacerbations, can include red rashes, skin dryness, cracking, crusting, and oozing. 

Some people with moderate-to-severe AD continue to experience debilitating symptoms despite available topical and steroid treatment options. Moderate-to-severe AD can take control of people’s lives, causing sleep disturbance, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and feelings of isolation. Many people feel that their AD negatively impacts all aspects of their life and influences important life decisions – socially and professionally.

Dermatologist, Dr Suretha Kannenberg, says that while it is difficult to determine the prevalence of eczema in South Africa, the disease mostly affects children. 

“Around half of childhood sufferers will potentially outgrow the condition by the time they reach puberty. Of these, more than half will develop flare-ups as adults. It is important to keep in mind that, although less common than in childhood, adults can develop eczema at any age.”

Excessive type 2 inflammation, is part of the underlying mechanism for the development of AD, asthma, chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps, eosinophilic esophagitis, and certain allergies.

How does one manage eczema?

- Never underestimate the importance of gentle skincare and the application of copious amounts of the correct moisturisers especially in the management of milder cases of atopic eczema. 

- In cases of more severe eczema, dermatologists may recommend topical corticosteroids, which have rapid, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itch effects. This calms the flare-ups and helps break the itch-scratch cycle 3e. There are also non-steroidal topicals. They are generally less effective during a flare, can cause transient burning or stinging, but is highly effective as maintenance treatment.

- Biologic therapy is the most recent option for adults and teens with moderate to severe eczema who don’t improve enough with topical steroids or who cannot use them 3e. Biologics are targeted, genetically engineered treatments made from living tissue or cells.

Living with eczema doesn’t have to be a burden. If you follow a proper treatment regime you can live a normal, better quality of life! If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with eczema, speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about suitable treatment options.

The Allergy Foundation South Africa will be hosting a Facebook Live Webinar event on Thursday, September 17 from 12:30pm-1:30pm to discuss atopic eczema.

Those who suffer from atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD), or those caring for someone that suffers from it, are welcome to attend the educational livestream. 

Dr McMaster and Dr Kannenberg will also be sharing more expert advice. 

Click on the following link @SAallergy to join.


1. Atopika. World atopic eczema day. [17 Aug 2020]. Available from:
2. Schneider L, Tilles S, Lio P, et al. Atopic dermatitis: a practice parameter update 2012. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013;131(2):295-9.e27. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.12.672 
3. National Eczema Association. Atopic Dermatitis. [17 Aug 2020]. Available from:

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Main image courtesy of iStock/961892516

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