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For most people, Eczema is synonymous with skin disease. However, the medical term for it is dermatitis which simply means inflammation of the skin. The skin becomes itchy and may develop blisters. Atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema. Some of the common parts of the body affected by this skin ailment are inside the elbows, around the knees, especially at the back, and also on the hands and feet. It results in dry skin, itchiness and sometimes it can also evolve into an open wound. One of the most compelling symptoms of eczema is the urge to scratch, which unfortunately also results in aggravation.
Thankfully, eczema is not contagious which simply means the family members and friends of an affected patient need not take undue precautions. Social isolation or boycott just does not apply because as mentioned above it is not communicable. Incidentally, people suffering from eczema may also be bearing other illnesses such as asthma and hay fever. It is a lasting disease which may appear and disappear depending on the season, medication and stress levels.
1. Atopic dermatitis
2. Stasis dermatitis
3. Allergic contact dermatitis
4. Irritant contact dermatitis
5. Neuro dermatitis
6. Perioral dermatitis
7. Seborrheic dermatitis
However, the most common form of this disease is the atopic dermatitis. It is generally associated with infants and small children, but that does not mean adults are not affected. In most cases it starts at an early age and may continue to be a part of the affected person’s life as it is a long lasting ailment. As mentioned earlier, it may subside and even disappear but it leaves behind patches of dry skin. If precautions are not taken, it can bounce back repeatedly.
Atopic dermatitis is one of the common skin ailments which affect a large number of people around the world. In fact, more than 18 million folks in America suffer from atopic dermatitis. Also called AD, it shows up on the face, legs and feet. The intensity of AD depends on the severity of the affected area, and is quite common amongst infants and small children and tends to last for many years. In some cases it may simply vanish only to resurface again during adulthood.
It has been clinically proven that those who suffer from atopic dermatitis also face other medical conditions such as asthma and hay fever (Allergic Rhinitis). In fact those who suffer from the two said ailments have a greater chance of developing AD. Family history also matters because genetic and environmental factors also enhance the risk of developing AD.
Although the exact causes are not known, it is generally understood that a combination of factors may be responsible for the skin to flare up. Genetic, undefined lifestyle and environmental factors somehow trigger the immune system, which reacts violently to this intrusion.
This fierce fight back by the immune system results in skin flare up. On the personal front, extreme emotions or convictions can also send out false signals of intrusion which triggers the immune system into over-reaction. Such triggers lead to rashes around the back of the knees, inside the elbows and of course on the face causing septicemia or infections which can spread if not medically treated.
Medical research has also proven that people suffering from AD carry a mutated gene that helps create filaggrin, the main protein of the keratohyalin granules. This protein builds a protective layer on the top of the skin that prevents loss of moisture and also reduces attacks in the form of bacteria and viruses. Due to the mutation of this gene the production of filaggrin is affected and therefore the skin becomes prone to frequent external attacks. This is the reason why people with AD exhibit dry and itchy skin.
Such people are infection prone and need to maintain a disciplined lifestyle in order to prevent flare ups.
1. Allergens present in the air
2. Certain type of fabrics and apparels
3. Harsh soaps and deodorants when sprayed on the skin directly
4. Undisciplined lifestyle
5. High level of stress
6. Certain types of food
7. Seasonal weather changes
Although it can occur anywhere on the body, its favorite areas include around the joints like knees and elbows, but it can also appear on the face, arms and legs. The affected areas appear dry, like chalk powder, interspersed with inflammation. In severe cases the sores may rupture and turn into wounds, especially if scratched.
These symptoms can vary even within a defined period. There may be an interlude or a season when these telltale marks simply ease out and then there can be periods of extreme discomfort and inflammation. These are typically called flare up in medical term.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
It varies from individual to individual, but it is advisable to speak to your family doctor if you experience any of the following:
1. Dry and itchy skin which is persistent in nature.
2. Visible sores, especially behind the knees and inside the elbows and in front of the knees in case of children. Some people also form aggressive rashes around the cheeks, neck, feet, etc.
3. Atopic dermatitis is usually a part of other allergies and conditions such as asthma and hay fever. If you experience similar symptoms the time is come to see your GP.
4. Recurrence of inflamed skin condition is another strong reason to visit your doctor because it could be a hint of an underlying skin ailment such as AD.
In most of the cases, especially those with mild AD, a long, warm bath followed by generous application of moisturizer cream such as petroleum gel can provide immediate relief. Individuals can also use this therapy for long term relief.
Another way of preventing and curing this ailment is the use of emulsifying oil added to a bucket of water before having a bath. Emulsifying oil nourishes and rehydrates the skin, offering much needed protection from skin evaporation which typically leads to dry skin and itching. Even infants can be offered this treatment. Moreover, one should not rub the body with a towel. Leaving water and emulsifying oil on the skin will create a strong layer of protection.
Topical steroids are another way that doctors often treat this issue. It continues to be the mainstay of atopic dermatitis treatment along with superficial application of moisturizing cream. This kind of combination offers immediate as well as long term relief. Patients residing in dry environments are recommended oil based topical steroids which are applied directly on to the affected area twice a day. This is stopped once the lesions are healed.
Some of the non-medical remedies suggested by the doctors include cotton clothes, even in winter time as any other fabric tends to aggravate the dry skin. Cotton clothing can be worn in layered form during winter.
Some of the other suggestions include:
1. Maintaining uniform, cool temperature inside the living quarters to prevent sweating which can cause irritation.
2. Refraining from foods that trigger this ailment.
3. Keeping away from allergen infested areas such as parks and gardens.
AD can be managed through regular medical checkups and also by maintaining high quality lifestyle. By introducing lifestyle changes according to the above mentioned suggestions affected individuals can lead a normal life.