Eczema is most commonly an atopic (allergic) condition affecting young children. But this is not always the case. All eczema causes a red, itchy rash on the skin often with fluid filled blisters. However not all eczema is atopic or allergy based. To determine the cause of eczema doctors often prescribe allergy testing.
29%-66% of eczema patients have an underlying allergic cause of their symptoms. (1)
There are a variety of allergic triggers that can contribute to the inflammation and symptoms of eczema. However topical treatments will only control the symptoms without getting deeper to the problem. The only way to stop the cycle is to find the underlying problem.
Doctors Traditionally Guessed
Traditionally doctors have used educated guesses to determine if allergens are triggering eczema and what those triggers are. Skin testing is the most commonly used method to more accurately determine the allergens.
New Improved Allergy Testing
The IgE-specific test is a new form of allergy testing and consists of a single draw of blood to measure for the blood antibody IgE. IgE is produced when an allergic reaction takes place within the body.
The IgE-specific test is equally as effective, if not more effective than the skin test but has added advantages.
• It consists of one single draw of blood,
• there are no risks of allergic reactions because you are not exposed to any allergens
• you are not required to stop taking any medications prior to the test.
• the already sensitive eczema skin is not put under added stress and at risk of increased symptoms.
IgE-specific testing only takes a couple of days. The blood is drawn and sent off to the lab for testing and 2 – 3 days later your doctor has the results. The test will determine if you are allergic or not and if you are what you are allergic to and how allergic you are to each item.
Avoid the Allergens
This is a wealth of information that enables the doctor to plan a whole treatment regime that is specific to the individual. If the IgE-specific test results are negative it is unlikely that the eczema is atopic in origin. The symptoms are from another cause. If the IgE-specific test results are positive a range of treatment options become available including allergen avoidance.
Atopic people generally have more than one allergic trigger and it is often not possible to avoid all allergens. Fortunately this is not necessary as exposure to a single allergen may not cause symptoms of eczema to appear. Atopic people tend to have several allergic triggers that stack up on top of each other until the individual reaches their allergic threshold (point at which symptoms appear).
To keep the eczema at bay it is important to stay below the individual’s allergic threshold. Avoiding as many allergic triggers as possible, as often as possible will help to keep the individual below their allergic threshold. This will result in the eczema symptoms disappearing or at least becoming significantly reduced so that they are more easily managed.
(1) Spergel JM. Immunology and treatment of atopic dermatitis. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2008;9:233-244