Atopic dermatitis (eczema)

  • 28 Mar, 2017
  • Skin disorder Solutions

Atopic dermatitis, also referred to as eczema, is an itchy eruption of the skin. It's a long-lasting (chronic) condition that may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever. Atopic dermatitis is most often seen in infants and children, but it can continue into adulthood or first appear later in life.

Although atopic dermatitis may affect virtually any area, it classically involves skin on the arms and behind the knees. It tends to flare periodically and then subside for a time, even up to several years. The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, but it may result from a malfunction in the body's immune system.

Signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:

• Red to brownish-gray colored patches
• Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
• Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
• Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
• Raw, sensitive skin from scratching

Though the patches can occur anywhere, they most often appear on the hands and feet, on the arms (antecubital fossa), behind the knees, and on the ankles, wrists, face, neck and upper chest. Atopic dermatitis can also affect the skin around your eyes, including your eyelids. Scratching can cause redness and swelling around the eyes. Sometimes, rubbing or scratching in this area causes patchy loss of eyebrow hair and eyelashes.

Atopic dermatitis most often begins in childhood — between the ages of 5 and 7 — and may persist into adulthood. For some, it flares periodically and then subsides for a time, even up to several years. Itching may be severe, and scratching the rash can make it even itchier. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle can be challenging.

Agreviating Factors:
The following factors can worsen signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis:

• Long, hot baths or showers
• Dry skin
• Stress
• Sweating
• Rapid changes in temperature
• Low humidity
• Solvents, cleaners, soaps or detergents
• Wool or man-made fabrics or clothing
• Dust or sand
• Cigarette smoke

Infantile eczema
When atopic dermatitis occurs in infants, it's called infantile eczema. This condition begins in infancy and may continue into childhood and adolescence.

Infantile eczema often involves an oozing, crusting rash, mainly on the face and scalp, but it can occur anywhere. After infancy, the rash becomes dryer and tends to be red to brown-gray in color. In adolescence, the skin may be scaly or thickened and easily irritated and the intense itching may continue.

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, but is likely due to a combination of dry, irritated skin together with a malfunction in the body's immune system. Stress and other emotional disorders can worsen atopic dermatitis, but they don't cause it.

Atopic dermatitis often occurs along with allergies and frequently runs in families in which other family members have asthma or hay fever. About three out of four children who have signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis later develop asthma or hay fever.

Treatment of eczema
If the diagnosis is eczema, the dermatologist will explain what type of eczema you have and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan. Before prescribing a treatment plan, a dermatologist considers the type of eczema, extent and severity of the eczema, patient’s medical history, and a number of other factors.

Medication and other therapies will be prescribed as needed to:
• Control itching • Reduce skin inflammation • Clear infection
• Loosen and remove scaly lesions • Reduce new lesions

It is important to realize that in most cases no one treatment will be effective. Medical research continues to show that the most effective treatment plan for eczema — regardless of type — involves using a combination of therapies to treat the skin and making lifestyle changes to control flare-ups. Doing so, tends to increase effectiveness and reduce side effects from medications.