What is Atopic Dermatitis ?
Atopic Dermatitis is a skin disease which causes the skin to get inflamed and itchy and may also result in scaly, flaky skin along with extreme redness. It is a very common disease and occurs most often in children, although it may carry on to adulthood too. Dry, scaly patches of skin may appear on the scalp, forehead and face of young children due to this disease. It is also commonly referred to as eczema, although eczema is really just an umbrella term for all skin rash related diseases. Atopic Dermatitis can be a very long lasting disease and is generally genetically inherited.
Causes of Atopic Dermatitis :
The exact cause of Atopic Dermatitis remains unknown. However, research has proved that in most cases this disease is inherited by the child from his parents. Most people with AD have a family history of the disease. A weak immune system may also be a cause for this disease as people suffering from Atopic Dermatitis have been known to also have symptoms of other atopic diseases like hay-fever and asthma. Many a times, presence of certain bacteria like staphylococcus on the skin can block the sweat glands resulting in itchy, red skin.
The most common symptom of Atopic Dermatitis is extreme itching and red patches on the skin. These patches can occur on hands, feet, chest and knees and in case of children, even on face and scalp. The skin turns dry and scaly and itching is severe, especially at night. With continuous scratching, skin also tends to get inflamed and takes on a bright red colour. In some cases, small blister-like bumps may also be formed which can ooze fluid when scratched.
The most common sign which differentiates Atopic Dermatitis from other skin infection related diseases is the constant urge to itch the infected skin. The itching in turn only ends up making the skin even redder and inflammable. Due to this constant rubbing and scratching, the skin may also become thick and leathery. Sometimes, red, splotchy lesions may also be formed, most commonly in hands or feet which can swell, crack and crust over. These lesions also invite bacterial infection if not treated quickly.
There are no specific tests for diagnosis of Atopic Dermatitis. It is a skin disease and can therefore be examined visually without the help of machines. However, in case of swollen or bleeding lesions, a skin biopsy can be conducted in which a small skin sample is sent to the lab for detailed study under a microscope. Besides this, to rule out the presence of staphylococcal bacteria on the skin, skin swabs can also be sent to the lab for testing.
Any experienced doctor will easily be able to identify the infection as Atopic Dermatitis even with a cursory examination. However, since the cause of this disease is generally genetic, he might ask you questions about your family’s medical history for AD as well as other atopic diseases like asthma and hay-fever. The doctor may also ask you if you suffered from atopic diseases as a child, or if you have taken your child to the doctor, then whether your child has had dry, itchy skin since birth. Some doctors also choose to carry out a patch test on the skin in which they will deposit some allergens on a small patch of the skin and see how the skin reacts to it.
The first step to the treatment would be to calm the skin. The burning, itchy sensation can be extremely discomforting and the doctor will suggest ways in which you can keep the skin cool. Besides that, depending on the severity of the disease, medications will be prescribed by him to control the itching, reduce inflammation and remove the lesions. Topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone are generally the recommended prescriptions for dealing with AD. Generally, AD occurs only in children and even if it carries on to adulthood, it occurs very rarely in adults. As you already know that you are susceptible to AD, if you take proper precautions and keep skin moisturized, you may never have an outbreak of AD again.
Since it is basically a genetically inherited disease, there is no way of ensuring that you don’t get infected by it, but if you have a history of AD, you can prevent more outbreaks by following these tips:
- Identify the triggers for AD – For some people, exposure to sunlight may trigger AD, while for others it could be as simple as chlorinated swimming pool water. Identify what triggers the AD for you and avoid it.
- Use gentle soaps – Your skin is hypersensitive and therefore needs a gentle soap which does not remove the natural oil of your skin.
- Take short baths – You should avoid long soaking baths as they dry out the skin. Even if you do, make sure to use warm water only and some essential bath oils.
- Keep your skin moisturized – Moisturize your skin at least twice a day, and not just your hands and feet but your whole body.
Types of Atopic Dermatitis :
Atopic Dermatitis can be of 3 main types, although it is quite possible for a single person to have symptoms of all the 3 types simultaneously.
- The first type is the most common when skin becomes red, itchy and inflamed and starts looking scaly and dry.
- The second type results in a condition where the skin becomes thick and leathery because of continuous scratching the rubbing. This is called lichenification.
- The third type is the worst where along with the red, itchy skin, lesions are also formed which can crack, weep and crust over.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common of atopic diseases and is often said to precede worse atopic diseases like asthma and hay-fever. The constant itching and scratching can discolour a skin permanently and may also break the skin which can lead to other more horrible skin infections. Sometimes, AD can also develop on the eyelids or around the eyes which can result in constant watering of the eye and inflammation of the eye.
Home Remedies :
There are several home remedies for curing AD which can help you avoid a trip to the doctor altogether. For mild AD, it is best to keep the skin moisturized at all times. Avoid scratching and apply anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to the infected area. Applying wet compresses can help soothe the burning sensation. Use warm water while having a bath and use mild soaps which do not contain dyes or deodorants. If you can get a portable humidifier for your home, nothing can work better.
Images, Pics and Photos of Atopic Dermatitis :
Typically, Atopic Dermatitis can be treated with OTC medications or home remedies. But for severe cases, corticosteroid creams and ointments are generally prescribed by doctors. However, long term use of these creams is not recommended as they may cause skin infections and stretch marks on the skin. This disease cannot be treated completely but you can avoid its occurrence by taking some preventive steps as mentioned above.
Factors that worsen Atopic Dermatitis :
There are some common factors which can worsen the condition of Atopic Dermatitis, especially in children; for example:
- Certain food products like eggs, peanuts or fish.
- Exposure to dust and pollution.
- Certain cleaning products like detergents, dishwashing liquid etc.
- Heavy sweating.
- Stress and anxiety.