Although the exact cause of eczema is not known, doctors believe it results from an immune response to irritants or allergens, explains WebMD. The condition is common in people who have a family history of allergies or asthma, and symptoms often worsen in response to exposure to substances such as pet dander, soaps or detergents. Some people have outbreaks in response to extreme temperatures, stress or an infection such as a cold.
As of 2015, there is no known cure for eczema, but treatments are available to keep itching and redness under control, states WebMD. Many people use over-the-counter lotions and creams containing 1 percent hydrocortisone, which also keep the skin moist. Some people get relief with cold compresses and antihistamines, while others use prescription-strength corticosteroid creams. Phototherapy, or exposure to ultraviolet light, and tar treatments are helpful to some people as well.
For patients who don't respond to standard therapies, doctors sometimes prescribe the oral medicine cyclosporine, which suppresses the body's immune response, WebMD explains. Two prescription creams, Elidel and Protopic, are also available. Known as topical immunomodulators, these medicines work by altering the immune system response in the skin. However, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration warns that these medicines may increase cancer risk and are best reserved for patients for whom other treatments have failed. Neither medicine is approved for use in children under the age of 2.