Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a chronic, inflammatory itchy skin disorder. It is most commonly found in children but can manifest in adults as well. Atopic dermatitis affects nearly 5-20% of children worldwide and about half of those affected as children carry on the disorder into adulthood. Risk factors for developing atopic dermatitis include a family history of atopy. Atopy is an umbrella term used to describe a group of chronic conditions that include: eczema, asthma, hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Approximately 70% of people with eczema have a positive family history of atopy.
Atopic dermatitis results from a genetic mutation in filaggrin in the skin. Filaggrin is responsible for protein formation in the skin. Proteins in the skin create a strong skin barrier, moisturize the skin and maintain skin hydration. When filaggrin no longer works properly the skin gets extremely dry, breaks down and gets intensely itchy. Eczema is often called “the itch that rashes” because eczema itself does not appear as a rash but rather the patient creates the rash by chronic itching.
Common signs are dry, itchy skin usually in the flexural areas. like the creases of the arms and legs. It is common to have eczema on the hands and feet as well. Eczema can often mimic other skin disorders such as allergic contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis. If you think you or a loved one might have eczema it is best to see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Eczema, depending on how severe it is, is usually treated with a combination of medications including topical creams, oral pills, phototherapy and/or injectable medications. There are many lifestyle modifications that can help alleviate symptoms of eczema:
- – Fragrance free (sensitive skin) laundry detergent, body wash and moisturizer
- – Moisturize skin on a DAILY basis
- – Avoid clothing containing wool
- – Avoid hot showers and long baths, short lukewarm showers are best
Check out these links for more resources on eczema:
Weston, W., & Howe, W. (2018). Atopic dermatitis (eczema): Pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com
Alina Collins, ARNP, NP-BC, DCNP