Eczema atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic or recurrent non-contagious inflammatory skin disease that is the most common type of eczema, a long-lasting, red, itchy rash that usually starts in early childhood. Eczema atopic dermatitis is one of the most common skin conditions seen in medical dermatology that is treated at Colleyville Dermatology.
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a common, chronic medical condition that causes the skin to be red, inflamed, and itchy. Atopic dermatitis typically presents during childhood (usually by age 5) but can appear at any age. The disease can be long-lasting, with periods of time during which the skin is clear (remission), as well as intermittent flare-ups. Eczema is not contagious, and treatment can usually control symptoms, although there is no cure.
Signs of Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Atopic dermatitis symptoms can vary from case to case and can include:
- Dry, flaky, cracking, or scaling skin that can appear thickened
- Discolored patches of skin (typically red or brownish-gray)
- Mild to severe itching that may worsen at night
- Red, swollen skin from scratching
- Small bumps (rash) that may leak or ooze fluid
- Skin that has crusted over from scratching
Atopic dermatitis can become extremely bothersome and painful, especially when scratched or infected. It can appear anywhere on the body, but the most common areas that get eczema are:
- Back of the neck
- Creases of the elbows and knees
- Face and scalp
- Wrists and forearms
- Front of the arms and legs
What Causes Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)?
While the exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, the condition tends to be hereditary. Experts agree that gene variations and problems with the immune system are contributing factors to the skin changing, drying out, and becoming inflamed which makes it more susceptible to irritants entering the skin.
People who experience allergies (such as hay fever) or asthma are more likely to have atopic dermatitis. Food allergies are also common in those who have eczema. Most people have certain triggers which can result in flare-ups or worsen the condition.
Common triggers for atopic dermatitis include:
- Strong or scented soaps, cleansers, or detergents
- Cold, dry weather/low humidity
- Long, hot baths or showers
- Certain skin care products, perfumes, or make-up
- Scratchy material, such as wool or synthetic fabric
- Allergens or irritants, such as dander, pollen, smoke, mold, or dust
- Certain foods (most commonly nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy)
Treating Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
While there is no known cure for atopic dermatitis, many treatment options are available to reduce the symptoms and alleviate the itching and discomfort. Over-the-counter and prescription medications (such as steroid creams or pills) can:
- Promote healing
- Decrease inflammation
- Minimize flare-ups
- Prevent infections that can result from itching
Keeping the skin properly moisturized will improve the functionality of the skin barrier which, in turn, reduces inflammation and protects the skin from allergens and other irritants.
Tips for Managing Atopic Dermatitis
- Take lukewarm baths once a day
- Use mild, unscented soaps
- Pat (rather than rub) the skin dry
- Moisturize skin directly after bathing to seal in water absorbed by the skin
- Use creams and ointments, and avoid lotions containing alcohol or with a high water content
- Avoid wearing rough clothing and exposing skin to irritants
- Try not to scratch or rub affected areas
- Avoid stress
- Keep your home temperature cool with a consistent humidity level
When Should I See a Doctor for Atopic Dermatitis?
A dermatologist can evaluate and diagnose your skin condition initially. The experts at Colleyville Dermatology can create an individualized treatment plan for your atopic dermatitis, including identifying the triggers that contribute to flare-ups so they can be avoided. Carefully adhering to your treatment plan can control symptoms and reduce flare-ups.
A dermatological visit is also recommended if your atopic dermatitis:
- Is affecting your sleep or other daily activities
- Shows signs of infection (red streaks, swelling or heat around the rash, fever, pus/yellow scabs)
- Home treatments are ineffective
If you are experiencing symptoms of atopic dermatitis or your eczema flare-ups are not improving with home treatments, please contact the experts at Colleyville Dermatology for an evaluation and to start your personalized treatment plan.