Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is an inflammatory skin condition that can be very irritating and painful. It’s very common in infants and young children, but some adults may also be affected by it.
Though the exact cause of atopic dermatitis isn’t entirely clear, it can be worsened by skin dryness and contact with irritants like wool or synthetic fabrics, among other things.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, this guide will help you learn more about the condition and how to treat it safely and effectively.
What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that is often characterized by dry or itchy skin.
This condition can be caused by a variety of factors including allergies, stress, or hormonal changes. The most common areas affected are the face, neck, arms and back.
It can also result in hair loss if it spreads to the scalp. Signs of atopic dermatitis include red patches on the skin with cracks or small blisters on the surface. They may also appear as crusty, scaly patches that may itch
These signs typically worsen during winter months when the air becomes drier.
One way to alleviate these symptoms is to use moisturizing lotions and creams which should help alleviate the itching as well as keep your skin hydrated.
Signs of atopic dermatitis:
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that is characterized by patches of irritated skin. Itchy, dry skin often develops into a rash with redness and swelling.
The name eczema comes from the Greek word for to boil because atopic dermatitis often resembles a pot of boiling water.
Eczema can be triggered by allergens or substances like soaps or detergents which irritate the skin.
Other triggers include stress, hormonal changes in pregnancy, weather changes (dry cold winters), and contact with certain fabrics.
A person may experience periods of remission without any need for medical intervention but it will likely flare up again when faced with an aggravating trigger.
Treatment includes medications such as topical steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well as avoiding the triggers where possible.
How to diagnose atopic dermatitis?
AD is usually diagnosed through clinical evaluation of the patient’s history, physical examination, and skin biopsy.
The most common diagnostic test for AD is a skin patch test to identify allergens that may be irritating the skin.
In patients with atopy (skin condition which makes one susceptible to developing allergies) who also have chronic hand eczema, studies have shown that blocking specific IgE-mediated allergic reactions with anti-IgE medications can improve their eczema.
Other ways in which treatments are focused on treating underlying conditions include phototherapy and systemic corticosteroids.
Phototherapy involves exposing affected areas to ultraviolet light in order to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
Systemic corticosteroids work by reducing inflammation, inhibiting immune responses, and suppressing abnormal inflammatory processes throughout the body.
Treatments for atopic dermatitis:
There are many ways to treat atopic dermatitis. Treatments can be skin-specific (such as topical corticosteroids) or systemic (such as immunosuppressive therapy).
Topical corticosteroids are the most popular method of atopic dermatitis treatment.
For example, if a person has mild AD they might use lotion containing hydrocortisone while someone with moderate AD might use an ointment or cream containing corticosteroid.
Doctors may also prescribe oral antihistamines for short term relief from itching. Other treatments include phototherapy and UVB light which is used in severe cases of AD.
Systemic treatments include oral or injectable medications which suppress the immune system such as cyclosporine, methotrexate, azathioprine, tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil.
However, there is no cure for AD so it’s important to find an effective treatment plan that works best for you.
Preventing AD from getting worse:
The skin is the body’s natural barrier against infection. When a person has atopical dermatitis this barrier becomes compromised.
The best way to prevent AD from getting worse is to keep it hydrated by using gentle cleansers. Avoid any soaps or other products that contain alcohol, fragrance, or other irritants.
Also avoid anything with heavy perfumes or dyes because they can cause a flare-up of atopic dermatitis.
A person should also use topical medications when needed in order to manage their atopic dermatitis flare-ups.
For more severe cases, prescription creams are available.
If a person’s condition worsens to the point where everyday activities are impaired, talk to your doctor about starting on a steroid cream or ointment if your doctor feels you would benefit from one.
It may take some time for your skin to improve but it will get better as long as you follow these steps.
The best way to manage atopic dermatitis is to avoid triggers as much as possible. For people with the condition, this might be hard since it can be difficult to identify all of the potential triggers.
However, once triggers are identified and eliminated, the severity of atopic dermatitis should decrease. In addition to taking care of triggers, some doctors recommend using over-the-counter topical steroids in conjunction with hydrocortisone ointments or lotions.