Eczema is a term used to describe a group of inflamed skin conditions that result in chronic, relapsing and very itchy rashes. About 15 million people in the United States suffer from some form of eczema, including 10 to 20 percent of all infants. There is no known cause for the condition, but it appears to involve an overactive immune system in the presence of certain materials and often occurs in people susceptible to allergies.
Treatment involves the restriction of scratching, use of moisturizing lotions or creams, cold compresses and nonprescription anti-inflammatory corticosteroid creams and ointments. If this proves insufficient, physicians may prescribe corticosteroid medication, antibiotics to combat infection, or sedative antihistamines. Phototherapy is a common procedure that uses light to reduce rashes. For severe cases, drugs such as cyclosporine A may be recommended.