An atopic dermatitis is a form of dermatitis, a skin condition that often leads to rashes and itchiness in the skin. It’s a chronic condition without a cure, but that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your life. There are treatments available.
It’s a condition that doesn’t always go diagnosed. It also goes by the name eczema and is extremely common in childhood. However, it can affect people at any point in their lives. This makes it important to know as much as possible to make sure you get the medical help you need. It’s time to take control and prevent your ailments from taking over your life.
Whether you or someone close to you have atopic dermatitis, here is everything you could possibly need to know.
What Is Atopic Dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is another name given to eczema. It’s a chronic condition that causes the skin to become red and itchy. Most people will have flare-ups of the condition, rather than suffering from the itchy, dry rashes all the time.
Eczema can occur from a young age and there are some babies diagnosed with it. However, not all people will be diagnosed when they’re children. Some people won’t be diagnosed until they are in their adult years or until they are elderly.
While there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, there are many treatments. They are used when flare-ups occur to help manage the rashes, the itchiness, and other symptoms. Some of the treatments are also used between flare-ups to prevent the rash from occurring. You will usually have to make lifestyle changes to manage the condition.
Symptoms of Eczema
Most people will experience the condition when they are younger. It can get worse over time, especially if they’re not diagnosed or don’t take steps to manage the chronic condition. Most of the time people will be diagnosed at the age of five, but the condition can go undiagnosed until later in life. Because of the way the condition flares up and then disappears, a doctor may not see the symptoms in full to be able to diagnose until later.
One of the most common symptoms of eczema is the rash. This often appears within the elbows or knees. It can also appear around the ankles, wrists, neck, chest, back, hands, feet and more. In infants, the condition will usually appear in the scalp or around the face. The rash appears where the skin is at its driest, which is why within the elbows or within the knees are common.
The skin is often dry, and it can be extremely itchy, especially at night. Many people can also find the skin becomes cracked and red. In some cases, the cracked skin can start to bleed. It’s important not to scratch, as it will just make the itchy and cracked symptoms worse.
While the condition isn’t usually life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable and affect the confidence. The bright redness of the rash is often noticeable from a distance, especially as it starts to spread around the chest, neck, and face.
Most people can manage the rash themselves, but there will be times you want to talk to a doctor. If the rash prevents you from sleeping because of the itchiness, you can get help to reduce that itchy feeling. You should also see a doctor if home remedies don’t help to ease the redness or itchiness or if it looks like there is an infection in the rash. Sometimes pus and yellow scabs can form within the cracks.
Why Does Eczema Occur?
Atopic dermatitis is one of those rather common disorders. When the skin is full of moisture, it’s able to protect you from irritants, allergens, bacteria and other problems. Eczema occurs when the moisture isn’t there. The skin becomes more susceptible to irritants, allergens and other factors.
Doctors believe that there is a genetic link. A variation in some genes can lead to the skin being unable to provide the moisture barrier.
This means that those with a family connection are more likely to experience eczema. Those suffering from asthma, and allergies may also succumb to eczema, as they can also affect the skin’s moisture protection.
Does Atopic Dermatitis Cause Hay Fever?
In some cases, atopic dermatitis can lead to other health conditions. More than 50% of children who have eczema will later develop asthma, hay fever, and other allergies by the time they turn 13. The conditions are relatively similar, as they all link to how the immune system reacts to allergens and environmental factors.
There are other complications involved with those who have eczema. People are more likely to suffer from other skin infections. Not only is the moisture barrier gone, but the skin cracks. It’s easier for bacteria to get within the skin and the area beneath the cracks is perfect for bacteria to grow. There is also an increased risk of getting other viruses, including the herpes virus, which can cause cold sores.
Other forms of dermatitis are also more likely to occur. The skin can become chronically scaly and itchy. If you continue to scratch, you will make the skin itch more and this leads you to an annoying, unhealthy cycle. The skin eventually becomes leathery and discolored, as the rash spreads and scales grow.
Irritant hand dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis are also more like to occur later in life.
How Doctors Know You Have Eczema
There isn’t a specific test to see if you have atopic dermatitis. However, doctors can usually tell from the look of the skin if you have the condition or not. Some doctors will carry out patch testing first. This helps to determine if the condition really is atopic dermatitis or an allergic reaction. Topical testing can also help to make sure there’s not another skin condition at play.
Sometimes there may be another skin condition at play with eczema. Your doctor will help you manage both at the same time.
In some cases, food sensitivities can show up as rashes on the skin. Your doctor will want to make sure this isn’t the case, as eczema may be wrongly diagnosed instead. If you believe there is a food allergy at play, discuss with your doctor first.
Can You Prevent Atopic Dermatitis?
Since doctors don’t fully know the exact reason for dermatitis, it’s important to note that there’s no way to guarantee eczema not becoming a problem. However, there are steps that you can take to help improve the health of the skin. By keeping the skin moist and allergen free, you can reduce the risk of developing it and reduce the flare-ups you have if you are diagnosed.
Moisturizing your skin daily is one of the best things you can do. Whether you have coconut oil, olive oil, or a specific cream you prefer, make sure you use it to protect your health. Watch out for creams that have harsh chemicals or drying agents.
You may need to change the creams you use throughout your life. It’s possible for the skin to get used to them and your skin will change due to changing hormones. For example, petroleum jelly can be perfect for a baby, but it can be too drying as you get older. You may need to use coconut or almond oil to keep your skin moist for longer periods of time.
You’ll also want to avoid anything that triggers your flare-ups. This is something you’ll get to understand more as you live with the condition. Sweat is one of the most common triggers, which can be hard for those who enjoy exercise. Soaps, detergents, pollen, and dust are also common triggers.
Stress affects your hormonal balance, which affects the number of natural oils your skin produces. This can lead to the moisture barrier disappearing more frequently. If you have a high-stress life, you can find you experience more flare-ups of your atopic dermatitis. You will need to find ways to manage the stress in your life to reduce the amount you trigger your condition.
In some cases, food can trigger the condition. This is especially the case for children. Your doctor can talk to you about this.
Often, actions you do to dry out your skin will make flare-ups more likely. This will include washing and bathing. You’ll want to reduce the time you spend in water and keep the heat of the liquid down. Cooler showers and baths will prevent you sweating, so you keep the moisture locked within your skin.
After your shower or bath, reduce the amount you towel dry your skin. Pat yourself dry, so you don’t affect the skin as much. This is especially the case if you’re suffering from a small flare-up, so you avoid making it worse.
Using bleach in your bath can help to manage your condition and reduce flare-ups. You only need half a cup of non-concentrated bleach in your bath water. The diluted bleach is enough to kill the bacteria on your skin, reducing the number of infections you can suffer from. You will want to use moisturizing cream afterward to ensure your skin remains protected from drying agents.
You will want to use cleaning agents on your skin. Watch out for harsh soaps and chemicals. There’s no need to opt for antibacterial or deodorant soaps. They tend to remove more oils from your skin, making your skin drier than it needs to be. Look out for mineral soaps that help to add more nutrients and moisture to your skin.
It’s also possible to use natural remedies for cleaning your skin. Not only will they put more nutrients into your skin, but they can help to balance the hormones. This means they can help balance your natural oil production.
Home Remedies to Manage Your Eczema Flare-Ups
When you do have flare-ups, there are changes that you will want to manage it naturally. There are steps you can take to keep the amount of medication you use to a minimum. In fact, these tend to be the best options to start with and doctors tend to highly recommend them to protect your skin from getting used to medications.
If you don’t see your eczema clearing up with natural treatments, you will want to talk to your doctor. This could suggest another skin ailment or that medication is needed.
Start by moisturizing your skin twice or more a day. If your skin is especially dry or you must take extra showers due to exercise, you’ll want to moisturize more often. The creams help to add moisture back into the skin, locking it in and improving the feel and health.
Almond and coconut oil tend to be the two most favored natural moisturizers. However, olive oil is an excellent alternative if you have a nut allergy. You can also try essential oils, although diluted is better. Some treatments can feel greasy and they take time to absorb into the skin. Others may sting at first, especially if you have cracked skin.
Warm baths can be useful, but it’s all about what you put in them. Use oatmeal or baking soda in your bath water. The treatments are soothing for the skin and help to alleviate many itching skin conditions, including chicken pox. You only need to soak the affected areas for 10-15 minutes and then just pat dry and apply moisturizing cream afterward.
There is a chance that the air in your room is dry. Opt for a humidifier to help add more moisture to help keep the skin moist. Avoiding perfumes and dyes is also important. This will often limit the use of soaps, creams, and other products you use but worth it to manage the flare-up.
You can get hydrocortisone creams from over the counter. These tend to be good medical options if you want something to reduce the itch. If the scratching is keeping you up at night, opting for one of these creams or an oral anti-itch medication will be necessary. These are also important for those who find it hard not to scratch and run the risk of making their ailment worse.
If you still struggle to scratch or you have children who don’t understand the term, apply bandages around the area. You can apply moisturizing cream first and place the bandage over the rash to add a barrier to protect the skin. These tend to be good overnight, as this is when people scratch without realizing. Remove the bandage the next morning and wash before using again.
You will certainly want to manage your stress levels. Anxiety and stress cause hormonal changes, which lead to changes in your natural oil production. Emotional disorders can also worsen atopic dermatitis in other ways, making you more aware of it. The itching becomes even more stressful, and you end up with an awful cycle for your skin.
Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis
While there is no cure, there are medications and other treatments to manage your condition. The exact treatments you get will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the condition.
For many people, a cream to manage the itching and repair the skin is offered. This is often a prescribed corticosteroid cream, which is stronger than the types of creams you can get over the counter. You’ll need to use it when you moisturize. The downside is the cream can lead to the skin thinning, which can cause other health problems.
Sometimes a calcineurin inhibitor is prescribed, which will affect the immune system. This is usually given to children over the age of two and can help to prevent the skin reactions from the immune system. It’s useful when there’s an allergen causing the condition. You’ll need to avoid strong sunlight when using the creams.
If the inflammation is bad, your doctor may opt for an oral drug. The drugs won’t be prescribed for the long term, so you’ll need to find natural ways to manage the inflammation within your skin.
In some cases, you’ll need medications to fight infections that have occurred. Your doctor will usually prescribe a topical antibacterial cream, although oral medications can also be offered.
There are regularly more treatments available, as researchers develop and test them. The latest is an injectable biological treatment known as dupilumab. It is offered to those who have tried other medications with no benefit.
When you don’t want medications or your doctor can’t see them working, you may be offered light therapy. This can help to reduce the number of flare-ups you suffer from and can help to improve the production of oils in the skin. However, there are risks to the UV rays used, including skin aging and a higher risk of skin cancer.
When it comes to infants, most medications and therapies aren’t suitable. It means looking at managing the condition naturally and getting to the bottom of the flare-ups. This can mean managing the temperature and moisture in the room to keep them consistent and using creams and oils to moisturize the skin. Your doctor will likely keep a close eye on the skin to ensure its health and avoid nighttime itching issues.
Managing the Stress of Eczema
There is a risk to your mental health. Eczema is one of those chronic ailments that can flare-up at the worst times. During a flare-up, your skin can be overly itchy and painful, making it difficult to sleep. This can lead to depression, especially if your flare-ups are uncontrollable through natural means. Getting support for your mental health is important.
Family and friends are good options, but your doctor may also recommend support groups. One of the benefits of support groups is that you hear how others have managed their condition.
You may also be referred to a psychologist. This will help you can support the stress and anxiety linked to your condition. While getting more confidence, you can also find the condition flare-ups aren’t as frequent or severe.
Having eczema doesn’t mean you have to deal with the unsightly rashes forever. It’s all about controlling the reasons and managing the stress and itchiness. There are natural and home remedies out there to use to your advantage.