Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

Atopic dermatitis is commonly recognized as Eczema and typically involves dry, itchy skin. Because everyone’s skin is so different, atopic dermatitis appears differently on each person and can also varies according to age.

Atopic dermatitis, or AD, involves dry, itchy skin that may become inflamed. This skin rash is chronic and recurring. AD is the most frequent type of eczema, which is a generalized term referring to many types of skin rashes that itch and become inflamed.

When flares are not happening, the skin usually shows no appearance of AD. During acute or short term flares that last a couple weeks, the skin usually appears cracked, ruddy, and raised.

Chronic flares of AD can alter the appearance of the skin, making it dark and thick. At that point, it takes longer to treat. 

A key symptom of atopic dermatitis is the characteristic itchy, dry, and inflamed skin. The itchiness and redness can become intense, and sometimes the skin appears scaly.

When flares happen, the rash and symptoms become worse. Flares vary distinctly from person to person, which means it is important for those who have AD to be aware of what triggers their flare up of atopic dermatitis. A good way of determining causes is to keep a record or journal identifying potential causes.

There are a number of things that may cause flares, such as:

  • Skin Irritants: Chemicals like bleach or chlorine can irritate the skin and trigger a flare up of atopic dermatitis. Other irritants can be more common, such as cleaning products like laundry detergent or certain dish or hand soaps, perfumes, and some fabrics.
  • Stressors: Many health conditions are caused or triggered by stress, and AD is no different. Stress has not been determined as a definite cause, but it can augment flares. Recognizing and reducing the prevalence of certain stressors or stress-causing circumstances in your life can be a guard against an AD flare
  • Allergens: Skin irritants may be even more individualized, such as allergens. Pet dander, pollens, plants, molds, and other substances can cause allergic reactions that result in itchy and inflamed skin.
  • Climate and Temperature: Individuals with atopic dermatitis may be more likely to have sensitivities to certain climates and temperatures. This can range from adverse reactions to dry weather and cold on up to negative reactions to humidity and heat. And for some individuals, this doesn’t exclude air conditioning or heaters.
 

Eczema, like most skin conditions, does have multiple options for treatment.

Each of these is meant to treat, heal, reduce symptoms that cause discomfort, and prevent future flares of eczema. In determining the best course of treatment, your dermatologist will consider several things, including the type of eczema you have, what may have caused it, the results of any previous treatments you may have had, as well as how your case of eczema has been affecting your life.

Where the eczema is occurring (such as on your face versus your leg) will also affect treatment options. The dermatologist will also look into how severe of a case of eczema you have and how long you have been experiencing the symptoms in each area.

More long-term cases of eczema symptoms may require stronger medications. Your personal preferences for treatment will likely be the deciding factor in what form of treatment he or she will recommend. Here are some of the medications prescribed for eczema:

  • Antihistamines
  • Antibiotics
  • Prednisone or other oral corticosteroids
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Cyclosporine or other immunosuppressants
  • Elidel®, Protopic®, or other calcineurin inhibitors

Sometimes it takes months to effectively treat eczema, and repeat treatments may be necessary.

Of course, avoiding any triggers for eczema will make a huge difference in keeping it under control. Bleach baths can be another way of helping prevent skin infections for those with eczema.
 
In addition, maintain good skin care with the appropriate products and moisturize regularly at least twice a day after showering or bathing. This last step will provide a protection for the skin so that there is a barrier against irritants; it also improves health of the skin and keeps it moist.
 
This is especially important for children’s skin and may mean using even one or two bottles of moisturizer each week (or more for adults).
 
Using a good moisturizer on the skin may improve the skin’s health significantly so that medicines are no longer necessary. 
 
You should choose a moisturizer that is a thicker hypoallergenic ointment, which will be gentle enough for your skin condition and yet powerful enough to soothe and protect the skin.
 
Dermatologists may recommend Eucerin®, CeraVe®, Cetaphil®, Aquaphor®, or even Vaseline® Petroleum Jelly, which the skin will drink right in. Cleanse the skin before applying the moisturizer, but do not use a harsh cleanser or apply too vigorously.
 
Make sure to use the moisturizer after bathing or showering while your skin is a bit damp so as to lock in moisture
 
Appropriate moisturizers will not have fragrances, alcohol, or chemicals such as glycerin that can dry out or irritate the skin.