The itch-scratch cycle

Keep the nails short if you're prone to scratching.
Keep the nails short if you’re prone to scratching.

Have you ever noticed that the more you scratch, the more a spot itches?  That in turn leads you to scratch even more, and thus you get the vicious itch-scratch cycle.

This vicious itch-scratch cycle also makes eczema worse.  While you might think sheer will could interrupt this cycle, that is actually a very tall order.  For any of you who have eczema, or have had a bad bug bite, you know what I mean.

So what can you do about it?

– Treat the itch. Work with your doctor to find the right combination of prescription and non-prescription methods to treat the itch.  These may include topical medications and pills too.

– Create a barrier.  Wraps over an offending area can create a barrier.  Similarly, gloves over the fingers can help.

– Decrease the trauma of your scratching by keeping your fingernails short. This will also help keep your nails from cutting open your skin, which can increase the likelihood of an infection.

What other methods have worked for you?

Moisturize moisturize moisturize!

Choose a fragrance-free hypo-allergeneic moisturizing cream or ointment.
Choose a fragrance-free hypo-allergeneic moisturizing cream or ointment.

It’s amazing what havoc a simple change of the weather can wreak. As our days and nights in the Northeast have gotten drier and cooler, I’ve noticed that my skin is needing more moisturizer to stay supple and comfortable. More of my patients are also coming back with flares of their eczema. Accompanying the eczema is dry skin.

So what is one key step to battling eczema and dry skin? Moisturizing! By moisturizing, we put the hydration back into the skin. Some of us have a genetic predisposition to getting dry skin. Others of us have occupations which may lead to frequent washing and dry skin. And for all of us, the inevitability of time and age also leads to a decreased ability to keep our skin supple.

So what is the proper way to moisturize? And how do you choose a moisturizer?

Well, if you are coming out of a bath or if you just washed your hands, then you want to pat dry instead of rubbing dry. Immediately put on a fragrance-free hypo-allergenic moisturizing cream or ointment. Creams tend to be thick and white while ointments tend to be greasier like Vaseline ointment. Lotions tend to be watery and less effective of a “sealant.” Slather on your moisturizing cream liberally.

Throughout the day, you can re-apply your moisturizer as needed.

For those hard to reach areas, you may need someone to help you apply your moisturizer or get a moisturizer applicator.

What is your favorite moisturizer?

October is Eczema Awareness Month!

October is Eczema Awareness month. Check out the National Eczema Associattion website: for more information
October is Eczema Awareness month. Check out the National Eczema Associattion website: for more information

October is upon us and so is eczema! October is eczema awareness month. For many people, the nippier drier weather of the fall leads to flares of eczema. Indeed, I’ve been seeing a lot more folks in clinic coming in with dry skin and eczema flares.

Sometimes it’s helpful to hear from a community of other eczema patients as well as caregivers with expertise in eczema. Check out the National Eczema Association’s webpage at and also their Facebook page.

In coming posts, we’ll talk about issues related to eczema.

Is Accutane safe during pregnancy?

PregnantWomanNo!!! Accutane is not safe during pregnancy.

Accutane is one brand of isotretinoin, and it is not safe for women to take during pregnancy.  Other brand names include Sotret, Claravis and Amnesteem.  Isotretinoin is a teratogen meaning that it can lead to birth defects.  These include defects of the skull, face, heart, thymus, and brain. It also increases the risk of stillbirth and early spontaneous abortions.  That’s why we have the iPledge system in the U.S. to help ensure compliance with birth control.

If you are a woman, before your doctor starts you on isotretinoin, he/she will check pregnancy tests at least twice before starting and each month, a repeat pregnancy test will be done.  Abstinence, and/or two forms of appropriate contraception will be reviewed and must be started at least a month before starting the medication, and continued for at least a month after the therapy is stopped.

Nevertheless, pregnancies are still occurring while patients are on isotretinoin.  This is a powerful drug that really influences the fetus — and can be life-changing for both you and the baby.