p to 20% children and 3% of adults are known to be suffering from eczema. The medical term for eczema is atopic dermatitis. Most people with atopic dermatitis are believed to be genetically predisposed to the chronic skin condition. Impaired skin barrier function along with exposure to harmful environmental agents triggers eczema breakouts in individuals susceptible to this skin disorder. The symptoms of atopic dermatitis usually appear in early childhood. Recent studies have challenged the role of allergic reactions in exacerbating atopic dermatitis. Allergic reactions, according to current research, occur as a consequence of atopic dermatitis in people prone to skin disorder. Currently, there is no cure for atopic dermatitis. Treatment involves controlling the symptoms of the skin disorder.
Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. In almost 85% of individuals prone to eczema, the symptoms of the disease first appear before the age of 5. Almost 50% eczema patients develop other allergic reactions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis or hay fever. However, almost 70% of individuals with early eczema onset are known to outgrow the disease in late childhood. 
Symptoms of Eczema
The signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis are known to vary from person to person. The common symptoms are dry skin, red to brownish-gray patches, cracked, thickened, scaly skin, small raised bumps that leak fluid when scratched, and itching, which usually worsens in the night. Scratching the areas of the skin affected by eczema worsens the symptoms. Scratching makes the affected skin swollen, raw and sensitive. Eczema patches appear on the hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles and knees. In infants, the dry scaly patches can develop on the scalp and face. This skin disorder flares up periodically. In some cases, eczema flares are accompanied by hay fever or asthma. 
The severity of the symptoms varies, depending upon the type of eczema. Though majority of people with eczema are affected by atopic dermatitis, there are other forms of eczema associated with different underlying causes.
Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that develops following exposure to an irritant or allergen. Chemicals that damage the skin barrier are known to cause contact dermatitis. It may develop by frequent hand-washing, sensitivity to certain ingredients in cosmetics or by touching substances that are known to cause allergic reactions such as poison ivy or nickel. Even people who are not prone to atopic dermatitis can develop contact dermatitis.
Nummular dermatitis is a type of eczema characterized by coin-shaped red marks on the back of the hands, forearms, legs, lower back and hip. Its exact cause is unknown. In women, the first outbreak of nummular dermatitis occurs in early adulthood or adolescence. However, men are not affected by this disease before their mmid-fifties
Dyshidrotic dermatitis is a type chronic and painful eczema. Severe itching is the initial sign of the eczema breakout. It is followed by blisters, and after a few weeks , scaly patches develop on the affected area. You may also notice deep cracks on the hands and fingers affected by dyshidrotic dermatitis.
Neurodermatitis is a form of eczema that occurs because of irritation due to persistent scratching. It breaks out on the back, scalp, ankles, wrists, behind and inside the ear, back or sides of the neck and the genitals. Though the irritation is limited to the affected area, the irritated skin becomes thick and wrinkled. It is also prone to infection.
Statis dermatitis develops on the lower legs when the veins in the area do not function properly and are unable to properly return blood to the heart. It causes weeping and crusting of the affected area. Over time brown discoloration appears on the affected area. Seborrheic dermatitis commonly known as dandruff is a type of eczema. Overgrowth of yeast that normally lives on the scalp irritates the skin, leading to rapid growth and shedding of the skin cells of the affected area. It usually affects the scalp in babies. In adults, seborrheic dermatitis is also known to affect the eyebrows, skin behind the ears and side of the nose, chest, and groin. 
Conventional Eczema Treatment
Eczema is conventionally treated with creams that alleviate itching and repair the damaged skin. Eczema creams are applied after moisturizing the affected area. Corticosteroid cream and ointment are commonly recommended by dermatologists for controlling the symptoms of eczema. The skin reactions can also be managed with the help of topical medications containing calcineurin inhibitors. Secondary infection that occurs when germs infect the open sores or cracks in the affected skin is treated with antibiotic cream. In cases of severe infection, oral antibiotic drugs are prescribed for a short time. Short-term intake of oral corticosteroids is sometimes prescribed by doctors for severe eczema flares. Severe eczema that does not respond to the conventional medications can be treated with an injectable biologic called dupilumab. However, this is a new drug and its long-term effect is currently unknown. 
Natural Remedies for Eczema
If you are looking for a chemical-free strategy to control your eczema symptoms, there are a number of time-honored natural remedies that can provide relief.
1. Cold Wet Compress
Cold wet compresses help in reducing the inflammation and discomfort. Moisten a thick soft cloth with cold water. Wrap the affected area with the wet cloth. Leave it for 15 to 20 minutes and again repeat the process. Continue applying the cold wet compress for up to two hours. Apply the cold compress twice daily for up to a week or until the symptoms subside. The itching and pain may worsen initially, but over time you will notice significant improvement in the eczema symptoms. 
2. Virgin Coconut Oil
Topical virgin coconut oil is believed to be an effective remedy for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. In a clinical trial, excellent improvement in eczema symptoms was reported in 46% of pediatric eczema patients and moderate improvement was reported in 47% of patients following topical application of virgin coconut oil for eight weeks. Virgin coconut oil was found to be more effective than mineral oil in improving skin capacitance and hydration and reducing transepidermal moisture loss.  Furthermore, the antibacterial effect of virgin coconut oil helps in suppressing overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in the affected area. Staphylococcus aureus releases a toxin that penetrates the skin and worsens the atopic eczema symptoms.
3. Evening Primrose Oil
Excess production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins associated with atopic dermatitis flares is believed to be due to impaired metabolism of essential fatty acids. The anti-inflammatory effect of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid found in evening primrose oil, is known to help in the management of atopic dermatitis. According to a study reported in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, regular intake of 500 mg of evening primrose oil for five months can help in improving the eczema symptoms.
4. Sunflower Oil
Topical sunflower seed oil is known to improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. The fatty acids present in sunflower oil are known for their anti-inflammatory and moisturizing effects. Topical application of sunflower oil is known to restore the skin barrier and improve hydration, thereby helping in enhancing the skin hydration in atopic dermatitis patients. 
Oatmeal is high in starch and beta-glucan that form a protective barrier on the skin when used topically. Colloidal oatmeal, when applied to the skin, helps in preserving the water in the stratum corneum or the outermost layer of the skin. Emollients and moisturizers containing oatmeal and oatmeal based body wash could help in reducing irritation and itching associated with eczema.  You can also use your regular oatmeal for relieving the symptoms of eczema. Mix a cup of oatmeal with lukewarm bathwater and soak for about 20 minutes. Gently pat the skin dry so that the oatmeal residue remains on the skin. 
The Lactobacillus bacteria present in yogurt and fermented milk products can help in controlling the symptoms of eczema. In a study children and adolescents, up to 18 years of age with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis were given a probiotics preparation daily for three months. There was a significant improvement in the symptoms and the beneficial effect of probiotic consumption persisted for a month after discontinuing the supplement. 
Honey is usually applied to the areas of the skin affected by eczema to support the healing process and minimize the risk of bacterial infection.  Manuka honey is especially found to be effective in suppressing the growth of Staphylococcus aureus that worsen the symptoms of eczema. It soothes and hydrates the skin. Apply manuka honey to the affected area and rinse it off after 10 minutes. In a study, researchers found that topical application of a mixture containing honey, beeswax and olive oil in equal proportions to the affected areas of the skin thrice a day helped in relieving the symptoms. 
Flavonoids present in the pigment of the calendula flowers are known for their anti-inflammatory activities that help in relieving the symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. Calendula gel or cream can be applied one to three times a day to the affected areas. Calendula is well tolerated. 
The anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and wound healing properties of chamomile can help in alleviating the discomfort and irritation associated with eczema. Experimental studies suggest chamomile has an immunoregulatory potential for relieving atopic dermatitis. Clinical studies have revealed that topical application of chamomile extract cream helps in healing eczema-like lesions. The essential oil of chamomile helps in reducing itching.  To soothe the itch and heal the skin, you can prepare a salve by combining chamomile with calendula. In a small saucepan, pour ¼-cup apricot oil and add one tablespoon each of dry calendula blooms and dry chamomile blossoms. Heat the mixture until warm. Turn off the heat and leave the pan on the stove for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the oil and pour it in a dry saucepan. Add one tablespoon of beeswax to the oil and warm on low heat. Allow the wax to melt and combine with the oil. Store the salve in a clean container. Apply a small amount of the salve to the eczema patches. 
Because of its anti-inflammatory property, licorice is believed to be an effective remedy for eczema. It is known to work in the same way as corticosteroids, but it does not possess any of the adverse side effects of these drugs. Licorice can be taken in the form of tea or supplement. Licorice tea is prepared by simmering two teaspoons of dried licorice root in three cups of water for 10 to 15 minutes. You can drink up to three cups of licorice daily. Alternatively, you can take up to two capsules containing 400 to 500 mg of licorice extract three times a day. Up to 30 drops of licorice tincture can be taken thrice a day. 
Burdock root is known for its beneficial effect on the skin health. It helps in fighting inflammation and bacterial infection. It is known to work best in the stage of eczema breakout that makes the skin dry and scaly.  Burdock cream can be applied frequently to the eczema patches. To prepare the cream, mix one cup of aqueous cream with a cup of burdock flowers, buds, and pieces of stem and leaves. Use a double boiler to simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. Cool the liquid and remove the herbs. Mix a teaspoon of vitamin E oil with the cream and store in a glass jar. Use as needed. 
12. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement
Daily intake of a nutritional supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil is known to improve the health of the skin. It can help in reducing scaling, itching and severity of atopic dermatitis. Clinical studies have revealed the beneficial effect of consuming 10 g of fish oil containing 3 g of an omega-3 fatty acid including 1.8 g of eicosapentaeinoic acid (EPA) on skin affected by eczema. 
13. Essential Oils
Certain essential oils are known for their beneficial effect on the eczema-prone skin. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil help in reducing eczema flares. It is also known to destroy Staphylococcus aureus associated with severe of eczema outbreaks. Apart from its calming and anti-inflammatory effects on the irritated skin, lavender oil helps in relieving stress, which is known to trigger eczema in people susceptible to the skin disorder. The essential oils of chamomile, thyme, rose geranium and frankincense are also regarded as effective remedies for eczema.