Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a skin condition that appears as a red rash with flaking skin or as small blisters/bumps. While it frequently occurs in young children, it may start in young adults and can continue into adult life.


What Is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis, commonly referred to as eczema, appears as a red rash with flaking skin or as small blisters/bumps.

In infants and very young children, this rash appears on the face, especially the cheeks, chest and trunk, back of the scalp and may come out on the arms and legs.

In older children and adults, it usually appears on the skin in front of the elbows and behind the knees. In certain people, it may appear on the eyelids and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Atopic Dermatitis Causes

Itching of the skin can be caused by irritants, infections, allergies and stress. Avoiding allergens such as animal dander, dust mites and cockroaches can improve atopic dermatitis. Eliminating foods to which a person is allergic will also result in the improvement of the eczema.

Irritants that cause itching through direct stimulation of the skin include:
Harsh soaps
Wool fabrics
Heat and sweating

Skin infections which can cause itching include:
Staphylococcus aureus infections, which can worsen the itching and eczema.
Herpes virus infections, which can cause severe skin infections in people with atopic dermatitis.

Allergies can be a significant trigger for itching, and may include:
Allergic reactions to animal dander and dust mites
Allergic reactions to pollens and mold spores in the air
Food allergies (including egg and milk allergy), particularly in children

Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosis

Diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is made by:
1. Reviewing the patient’s allergy history and/or his family history of allergies.
2. Verifying there is itching. This is because both itching and the appearance of rash must occur for atopic dermatitis to be diagnosed.
3. Checking for eczema — the rash appears red with small blisters or bumps., which may ooze or flake when scratched.

Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis

Eczema with an uncontrollable itch needs to be treated with medications, which may include:
Steroids for application on the skin are normally the first line of therapy for atopic dermatitis, and are available in the form of lotions, creams, ointments and solutions (for the scalp).
Oral steroids are required to achieve control over a severe flare of atopic dermatitis.
Topical antibiotics are enough for localised infections of eczema, while oral antibiotics may be needed for infections involving larger areas of skin.
Non-sedating antihistamines for use during the day that may be combined with sedating antihistamines such as diphenhydramine at night. These help control the itching.

Living with Atopic Dermatitis 

Avoid the triggers of itching by not using wool, nylon, stiff or irritating clothing which may irritate the skin and promote sweating.
Wear light cotton clothing and use only mild detergents for washing. Avoid the use of fabric softeners as they may irritate the skin.
Avoid getting sunburned and use sunscreens when you are out in the sun.
Avoid traumatising the skin by keeping fingernails short and hands clean to avoid scratching and infecting the skin.
Maintain good skin care with adequate moisturising and hydration; this helps decrease itching and the formation of eczema.
Avoid the use of pure petroleum jelly as it does not moisturise the skin unless placed on top of a moisturiser or moist skin.
Avoid extremely hot/cold water showers or baths, and keep them short. Avoid rubbing with a towel. Instead, blot dry and apply a moisturising cream immediately all over your body.

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

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