Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is a chronic skin illness that causes dry, itchy and irritated skin.
Eczema is a term that is sometimes used to refer to atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is prevalent, affecting 10-15% of the population. The acute itching and irritation that occurs during flare-ups can be very annoying. Scratching, as a result, can lead to raw skin and skin diseases.
Fortunately, the majority of atopic dermatitis cases respond favorably to therapy.
How do you know if you have Atopic Dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is characterized by severe itching and red, dry and sometimes scaly skin.
A flare occurs when the symptoms of atopic dermatitis worsen. A variety of events might cause an atopic dermatitis flare-up.
Atopic dermatitis manifests itself in a variety of ways, depending on the individual. Most persons with atopic dermatitis have an acute flare that lasts a few weeks and causes their skin to become red, inflamed and broken.
The skin may appear normal or slightly dry between flares. If the rash persists for an extended period of time (chronic), the skin may begin to thicken and darken. Treatment takes longer to work on these thicker skin patches.
The appearance of atopic dermatitis varies depending on the individual's age.
Infants with Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis affects a large percentage of children under the age of one year. Dry, scaly and red skin is common. Infants' cheeks are frequently the first to be impacted. Because the wetness retained by diapers prevents the skin from drying, the diaper area is typically spared.
Toddlers with Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis can become increasingly localized as children reach the age of two to three years old, affecting areas such as the front of the knees, outside elbows and tops of the wrists. Older children are also capable of a more powerful scratch, resulting in red and inflamed areas.
School-age Children with Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis tends to migrate to the area of the joint that flexes as children get older, such as the insides of the elbows and knees. Eyelids, earlobes, neck and scalp can all be affected by atopic dermatitis.
Dyshidrotic or vesicular dermatitis, which causes itching blisters on the fingers and feet in school-aged children, can occur (pompholyx).
Adults with Atopic Dermatitis
Adults with atopic dermatitis often have a rash that is restricted to certain locations, such as the hands, feet, eyelids, backs of knees and insides of elbows. However, skin on other parts of the body may feel dry and itchy.
Atopic dermatitis that begins in childhood normally improves by the time the child is five years old and disappears by the time the child reaches adolescence. Many people, however, suffer with atopic dermatitis and must treat it for the rest of their lives.
Causes of Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is caused by a variety of factors. Although the specific etiology of atopic dermatitis is uncertain, the disease appears to run in families. Atopic dermatitis patients are more likely to develop allergies or asthma symptoms. A hyperactive immune system may be the link between these illnesses.
T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fights infections, appear to be more active in persons with atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis patients' skin is more vulnerable to losing water quickly due to changes beneath the epidermis, resulting in dry, cracked skin.
Although persons with atopic dermatitis have a hyperactive immune system, it is not always successful at combating infections. People with atopic dermatitis, for example, are more prone to skin infections like impetigo.
The following are some of the most regularly reported atopic dermatitis triggers:
- Irritants are substances that come into direct contact with the skin, causing redness and irritation. Wool or other synthetic materials, soaps and detergents, perfumes and cosmetics, cigarette smoke and chemicals are all examples (such as chlorine).
- Allergens are more indirect triggers, such as pollen, mold or animal and pet dander, which cause the skin to become inflamed and itching as a result of an allergic reaction.
- While Stress isn't thought to be a cause of atopic dermatitis, it can exacerbate flare-ups.
- Temperature—Many persons with atopic dermatitis have chronically dry skin that is susceptible to cold winter weather, indoor heating or hot baths. Sweating in humid surroundings, such as a sauna, might exacerbate a flare-up.
Treatment Options for Atopic Dermatitis
Treatment for atopic dermatitis aims to cure the skin, prevent new flare-ups and minimize the desire to scratch, which can aggravate and prolong symptoms. Patients with atopic dermatitis should try to avoid recognized triggers and use a moisturizer on a regular basis.
There are a variety of therapy alternatives. A treatment plan will be suggested depending on a number of factors, including:
- The age of the individual
- The rash's exact location (face vs. knee)
- The magnitude of the flare
- Acute vs. chronic: Long-lasting symptoms may require more potent medications
- Past treatment outcomes
- Personal inclinations
Treatment for atopic dermatitis might take months and it's common to have to repeat it. Your doctor will discuss appropriate therapeutic options with you.
- Topical corticosteroids are a type of corticosteroid applied to the skin. Corticosteroids of mild to medium potency are applied to the skin on a short-term basis to suppress the flare.
- Calcineurin inhibitors are non-steroidal drugs that can be used instead of or in conjunction with corticosteroids. They, too, aid in the reduction of inflammation.
- Antihistamines aid in alleviating itching and scratching, which can obstruct skin healing.
- Antibiotics may be used to treat a bacterial infection of the skin that is aggravating atopic dermatitis symptoms.
- Oral corticosteroids are a type of corticosteroid that may be used to quickly control severe cases of atopic dermatitis. Oral corticosteroids are usually administered for only a few days due to the vast range of negative effects they cause.
- Immunosuppressants are drugs that suppress the immune system (cyclosporine). For severe cases of atopic dermatitis that have not responded to existing therapies, they may be considered.
- Biological medications (dupilumab) help to relieve atopic dermatitis symptoms by reducing inflammation.
Keep a Notebook
Because not everyone with atopic dermatitis has the same triggers, those who suffer from the condition must keep track of their individual sensitivity. Finding triggers can be difficult (for example, there may be a delay between consuming a certain item and experiencing a flare-up), so keeping a notebook of symptoms and suspected reasons is a good idea.