Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a common inflammatory condition that makes the skin itchy and flaky. It can present anywhere on the body and tends to favor the face, arms, and legs. Patients with a history of asthma or allergies may experience more severe symptoms.
Eczema can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. It is thought to be caused by an abnormality of the body’s immune system (often due to over-activity of a specific part of the immune system) and its interaction with the environment. This condition is very common in children and usually presents before the age of five. Although there are various treatment options, atopic dermatitis tends to be chronic and recurring with periodic flares. Patients often have sensitive skin which can be easily aggravated by environmental factors such dry weather, excessive moisture, household cleaning products, harsh soaps, plants & vegetation, etc. Approximately 60% of children may outgrow eczema by early adulthood, although it can persist to adulthood. Adults with eczema tend to have a more chronic and relapsing course.
Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis
Though there is no cure for eczema, there are treatments that can relieve its symptoms:
Moisturizing creams or ointments – These products help keep your skin moist. In some cases, your doctor or nurse might suggest using a moist dressing over special creams or medicines. It helps to put on your cream or ointment right after a bath or shower.
Steroid creams and ointments – These go on the skin, and relieve itching and redness. (In severe cases, you might need steroids in pills. But your doctor or nurse will want to take you off steroid pills as soon as possible. Even though these medicines help, they can also cause problems of their own.)
Medicines that change the way the immune system works – These medicines are only for people who do not get better with safer treatment options.
Antihistamine pills – Antihistamines are the medicines people often take for allergies. Some people with eczema find that antihistamines relieve itching. Others do not think the medicines do any good. Many people with eczema find that itching is worst at night. That can make it hard to sleep. If you have this problem, talk with your doctor or nurse about it. He or she might recommend an antihistamine that can also help with sleep.
Light therapy – Another treatment option is something called "light therapy". During light therapy, your skin is exposed to a special kind of light called ultraviolet light. This therapy is usually done in a doctor's office.
Light therapy can help with eczema but experts worry that it might increase a person's risk for skin cancer. Doctors usually recommend it for people who do not get better with other treatments.