Atopic Dermatitis & Eczema

Eczema is a common skin disorder that manifests itself as itchy skin and a red rash; it is particularly common in infants and young children. The term eczema, or atopic dermatitis, refers to red itchy skin with scaling and dryness. Atopic dermatitis is the most severe and chronic form of eczema. The distribution of eczema varies between babies, toddlers and adults.

Atopic dermatitis is much more common today than it was 30 years ago. Risk factors for Atopic dermatitis include family members who with eczema, asthma or hay fever or another allergic condition. In most cases eczema is genetic but how active the rash is can be influenced by factors such as heat, cold, fragrance, coarse fabrics, household products, or animal dander. Some outbreaks may follow a respiratory infection, asthma attack, worsening of environmental allergies or in conjunction with a food allergy. Most children grow out of atopic dermatitis but 25% of people will go on to have some form of eczema in their lives.

Eczema is not contagious and there is no known cure but avoidance of triggers and available treatments can be very helpful. There are several treatments available to ease the discomforts of eczema. Over-the-counter and prescription moisturizers, itch relievers and barrier creams may be used. If symptoms persist or become more severe, stronger medications may be prescribed. And newer treatments may be aimed at decreasing the bacterial counts on the skin as it may play a vital role in the exacerbation of eczema. It is important to treat eczema symptoms because the condition breaks down the normal skin barrier function and the body’s immunity at the site is compromised. This may allow bacteria to invade and colonize or cause infection. Itching has to be addressed because scratching can lead to crusting and scabbing of the skin, further breaking down tissues, and increasing the risk of infection. Treatment of eczema may include antihistamines, topical or oral corticosteroids, topical non-steroidal topicals, changes in bathing and laundering habits, antibiotics (topical or oral), phototherapy, immunomodulators (such as cyclosporine) and newer biologic therapies for severe recalcitrant cases.

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