Many people suffer from skin problems, although their determination often goes unnoticed. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition of the dermis characterized by dry, itchy skin.
This disease is also often referred to as eczema , a word that refers to a broader group of skin conditions. “Dermatitis”, on the other hand, refers to a skin condition and “atopic” refers to diseases caused by allergic reactions. As an atopic disease (affects the skin), it is also in the same group as pollen allergy and asthma. Also, atopic dermatitis is not contagious.
What types are there?
All types of eczema cause itching and redness, but atopic dermatitis is the most serious and chronic type. Other common types can be:
- Hand eczema
- Contact dermatitis, which occurs only when the skin comes into contact with certain substances.
- Dyshidrotic eczema, a blistering form of eczema found only on the fingers, palms, and soles of the feet
Doctors and researchers are working to better understand how eczema works and why it affects so many people. There is currently no known cure for this common disease, only remedies can be applied to treat or prevent it.
What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?
The main symptom is dry, itchy skin that often turns into a red rash. During an outbreak, this condition turns into an itchy red rash. Many physical and internal factors can trigger an eczema flare. The inflammation that appears causes increased blood flow and the urge to sting.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include dry, itchy skin that usually appears on the face , inside the elbows, or behind the knees . However, it can also appear anywhere on the body. The skin may be scaly, rough, and leathery or broken, depending on the part of the body affected.
People with atopic dermatitis are more prone to skin infections and herpes. When it appears on the eyelids and around the eyes, it can lead to cataracts, darkening of the skin, and an additional fold of skin under the eye.
Eczema flare-ups are part of the agonizing itch and scratch cycle. It’s hard to fight the physical and psychological components that drive the itch-scratch cycle. Scratching is pleasant at the time, but can lead to more inflammation and even skin infections. Extreme itching of the skin causes the person to scratch, which in turn makes the itching worse. Itching is a problem particularly during sleep , when conscious control of scratching is diminished and the absence of other external stimuli makes itching more noticeable.
As for the symptoms, they can be different depending on the age of each person. For example, in the case of babies , dry, itchy and scaly skin may appear. A rash is also seen on the scalp or cheeks, and even a rash that may bubble and ooze clear fluid. Babies with these symptoms may have trouble sleeping due to itchy skin. Also, they can develop skin infections from scratching.
In children , the most common symptoms may include a rash in the folds of the elbows, knees, or both, scaly patches of skin at the site of the rash, lightened or darkened skin patches, thick and extremely dry, rashes on the neck and face, especially around the eyes. In contrast, adults who had atopic dermatitis as children may have discolored skin that is easily irritated.
Most common causes of atopic eczema
It usually begins in childhood and becomes milder or disappears in adulthood. Atopic dermatitis is part of what doctors call atopic triad . “Triad” means three. The other two diseases in the triad are asthma and allergy. Many people with atopic dermatitis suffer from all three conditions.
The exact cause is unknown, although we should not fear its contagion because it is impossible. The basic understanding of atopic eczema is that inflammation is the result of the presence of too many inflammatory cells in the skin. There is also evidence that people have a compromised skin barrier compared to normal skin. Due to the altered skin barrier, people with this dermis problem have drier skin. The skin is more prone to water loss and the entry of irritants. All of this leads to the development of red, itchy rashes.
You should know what triggers your dermatitis flare-ups, but common environmental and lifestyle factors that often play a role are:
- Long, hot showers or baths
- Cold and dry climate
- Soaps, detergents and cleaners
- Wool and synthetic fabrics
- Physical irritants (dirt, sand, smoke)
- Allergens (pollen, dander, dust)
- Strenuous exercise
Atopic dermatitis can appear, or increase, when a person is exposed to something in their environment. Known triggers for atopic dermatitis include exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, stress, dry skin, and infection. Skin irritants like some fabrics, soaps, and household cleaners can also trigger an outbreak of atopic dermatitis. So it is important to recognize what the focus of the outbreaks is.
How is atopic dermatitis treated?
As we said before, there is no known cure for atopic dermatitis or eczema. Finding the right treatment is important to help reduce itching and discomfort. Soothing the skin reduces stress and helps prevent excessive scratching that leads to skin infections.
The most popular treatment options range from skin care, prescription drugs, and lifestyle changes. The best preventive measure is to hydrate the skin . This improves the function of the skin barrier, so it will flare less frequently and provide a better barrier against allergens and irritants. Bathing and hydrating every day is the easiest way to hydrate your skin. It is important to apply a moisturizer within a few minutes of bathing so that it absorbs the necessary nutrients.
Complementary and alternative treatments for atopic dermatitis that have been shown to work include biofeedback, meditation, and hypnosis. There is evidence that Chinese herbs and certain supplements, such as probiotics, can alleviate the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
If none of this improves the situation, it is important to see a dermatologist to assess your case. A doctor can help create an effective treatment plan and help you understand your triggers. See a doctor in the ER if you see signs of a bacterial skin infection, such as pain, swelling, tenderness, or warmth around the rash, red streaks spreading from the rash, skin discharge, or fever.