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Breakthroughs in the Skin Disease, Eczema

January 5, 2017
Plain English Version


Eczema is a skin disease. It creates an itching, oozing rash that can cover almost all the skin. The constant itch can be unbearable. Many patients consider suicide. There has never been a safe and effective treatment.

One type of the disease is atopic dermatitis. It is a moderate-to-severe form of eczema. It is the most common form of the disease.

The cause of eczema in not known. People with allergies and asthma get it more often. Eczema affects over 10 percent of American children. It is more common in those with dark brown skin.

There is good news on two fronts.


There is a new way to help prevent the disease. A study treated babies who had relatives with the disease. Caretakers rubbed moisturizers on the babies’ bodies every day for six months. It lowered their risk of developing itchy, dry, scaly patches on their heads, arms, and legs.

The best moisturizer for the job was petroleum jelly. One famous brand is Vaseline. Sunflower ointment was the second best moisturizer.

Itchiness often keeps children from sleeping. Scratching can lead to skin infections. Some families spend large sums on expensive creams to fight the disease. Researchers think the moisturizers “seal” a baby’s skin. This prevents eczema from taking place. There is no known downside to using the moisturizers.


There is even better news for adults with severe atopic dermatitis. Scientists tested a new drug. The drug is dupilumab. Most of the people in the test getting the drug said the itching went down within two weeks. They said their skin began to clear in a few months. About four out of ten patients saw the disease disappear.

Having severe atopic dermatitis is terrible. It can make it impossible to live. Itching is non-stop. People cannot sleep. Patients spend thousands on treatments. The treatments may damage the kidneys or result in bone loss.

One doctor said, “It is wonderful. We walk in the room, and patients are smiling. These patients are the worst of the worst. Their lives were destroyed.” Another doctor said, “We are entering a new era.”

Sources: The New York Times, January 2, 2017, and October 1, 2016

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