Everything You Need to Know About this Common Skin Condition
You’ve probably heard it referred to as Eczema. In fact, Eczema is a broad term that defines five different types of skin condition including atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, sebhorrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. Together, eczema afflicts more than 30 million Americans.
Atopic dermatitis alone affects more than 18 million of these cases. It is the most common type of eczema as well as the most severe. Because it is a chronic condition, people with atopic dermatitis will often experience flare-ups at different points throughout their lives, beginning in childhood. However, it is possible for atopic dermatitis to develop in adulthood. Because we treat all ages at Blue Ocean Dermatology, we see how the disease effects infants, children, and adults.
Signs and Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis
If you have atopic dermatitis you are most likely experiencing the following:
- – Itchy, dry skin
- – Red, flaky, or scaly patches of skin
- – Bumps that ooze clear fluid when scratched
- – Thickening and darkening of skin in the affected area
You may notice that the itching is worse at night and that scratching will lead to oozing. It can also lead to infection, so if you experience pain or drainage of pus from the affected area, call your doctor immediately.
The areas affected may be different depending on your age. In infants, we often see atopic dermatitis on the cheeks and chest. In children, the rash appears more often on the backs of the knees and on the inside of the elbows. Adults most often experience atopic dermatitis on the hands and feet. In general, atopic dermatitis affects the face, arms, and legs.
What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?
You’ll be comforted to know that atopic dermatitis is not contagious.
The short answer to this question is that we really don’t know what causes the disease. Science has shown us that atopic dermatitis has a significant genetic component. We also know that atopic dermatitis is closely linked with hay fever and asthma. According to the National Eczema Association, “If one parent has atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever, there’s about a 50% chance that their child will have at least one of these diseases.” Many patients with hay fever or asthma will also suffer from atopic dermatitis.
More specifically, atopic dermatitis appears to be an immune system overreaction when presented with an environmental trigger. To reduce this inflammation, our best bet at preventing an atopic dermatitis flare-up is to avoid these triggers.
Common Atopic Dermatitis Triggers
- – Exposure to strong chemicals, soaps, or beauty products
- – Wearing scratchy or irritating materials
- – Pollen, mold, dander, dust, and other allergens
- – Food allergens (common foods to avoid are milk, eggs, and wheat)
- – Stress
- – Smoke
- – Hormones
- – Prolonged exposure to water, heat (leading to sweating), or extreme cold, all of which dry the skin
Clearly, atopic dermatitis symptoms may be worse at certain times of year when these triggers are present. Knowing which triggers affect you will help you keep your atopic dermatitis symptoms under control.
How to Treat Atopic Dermatitis
If you suspect you have atopic dermatitis, you will benefit from speaking with your dermatologist right away. While there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, the proper treatment can help you alleviate and eliminate your symptoms. A dermatologist can also help you develop an appropriate care routine to keep your skin moisturized to avoid flare-ups. Never underestimate the importance of self-care in keeping your skin healthy.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry skin or atopic dermatitis this winter, know that you are not alone. Whenever possible, keep your skin moisturized and protected to enjoy the season with a clear, healthy outlook!