Atopic dermatitis, known more commonly as eczema, is a skin disorder that results in itchy and scaly patches of skin. This chronic disorder is characterized by red patches and rashes on the surface of the skin.
WHAT CAUSES ECZEMA?
According to studies, eczema is not caused by allergies or asthma, although many people who suffer from eczema have these conditions as well.
Instead, eczema occurs when the skin is missing specific proteins that keep sensitivity at bay.
This results in a visible hypersensitive skin reaction and the patchy, scaly skin that characterizes those with eczema.
WHO SUFFERS FROM ECZEMA?
Most people with eczema are diagnosed with it before the age of five. Because of this, it is not unusual for a two-month-old infant to be diagnosed with the skin condition.
Many doctors say that it can be outgrown as the child ages, and in most cases, it vanishes on its own by the time he or she reaches adulthood.
However, in other cases, this doesn’t occur and the condition becomes life-long and chronic.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ECZEMA?
The main symptoms of eczema are red, scaly patches of skin that can easily become inflamed and swollen. Changes in skin color, bumpy skin, blisters and itchy skin are additional symptoms. On top of this, there are many things that can make eczema worse, including:
- Sudden changes in temperature
- Certain soaps, skin lotions and perfumes, usually those with artificial dyes or fragrances
- Direct contact with rough fabrics and materials
- Dry, cold air
- An overexposure to water (excessive swimming or bathing)
- Dry skin
- Direct contact with certain types of irritants and chemicals
- Certain illnesses, like the flu or various colds
HOW CAN ECZEMA BE TREATED?
In order for treatment to begin, eczema must first be properly diagnosed by a medical doctor. Diagnostic tests include a skin biopsy, which can rule out other, more simple problems that can also cause itchy or very dry skin. An allergy test may also be done.
The first part of eczema treatment involves following a very specific skin care regimen. You can relieve dryness and itching by applying a gentle, alcohol and fragrance-free moisturizer like the kind used on sensitive skin. Petroleum jelly can also work. You will have to avoid scratching your skin, and some medications may be prescribed, including antihistamines and steroid creams. Following these instructions may reduce your need for additional medical treatment.
Younger children with eczema may need to wear gloves while sleeping to prevent them from scratching their skin. Their fingernails will also need to be kept short as well, since this will discourage scratching. Keeping a humidifier running in their bedrooms at night may help with the dry skin that characterizes this skin condition.
Some things that should be avoided as much as possible include irritating clothing like lanolin or wool, very strong detergents and soaps, certain solvents and household chemicals, and sudden changes in temperature. All of these things can aggravate eczema.
A doctor should always be consulted before starting a skin care regimen to alleviate eczema. If your symptoms are severe and the more common topical treatments do not work, antibiotics, topical immunomodulators, and stronger antihistamines can be prescribed.