Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disorder that causes the skin to become dry, itchy, scaly, reddish and painful. It results either from irritation of skin or hypersensitivity reactions.
Facts about atopic dermatitis:
- Atopic dermatitis is more common in infants and children. The symptoms mostly appear within three to twelve months of age. 30% infants get atopic dermatitis before first year of their age while 90% of children develop this skin problem before 5 five years of age.
- Incidence is same in both males and females.
- The chances of developing atopic dermatitis decrease with the progressing age. However, adults might be the victims of this problem.
- It is a non contagious disease. There are no chances of spread from one person to other through physical contact.
- Usually affects hands, feet, back of knees, face, wrist and ankle.
- A chronic skin problem and the risks of recurrence are high.
- Chances of atopic dermatitis decrease by 50% after the five years of age.
- People living in hot and dry climate are more prone because skin dehydration increases the risk of skin problem.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis:
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis begin with mild rashes and become severe as time passes. Some prominent symptoms of atopic dermatitis are:
- Skin rashes appear due to local irritation of skin.
- Itching is a common symptom. Patient suffering from this skin condition has great urge to scratch the affected part of skin. Scratching of skin in this condition can further aggravate the symptoms.
- Intense dry skin is seen because skin becomes dehydrated and is desiccated in dermatitis.
- Reddish skin due to increase blood flow to the site of inflamed and irritated skin.
- Fluid filled vesicles and blisters are formed.
- Skin becomes scaly due to dryness.
- Crusts are formed at the site of blisters when the fluid dries up.
- Fluid oozes out on rupturing of blisters.
- Swelling of skin is very prominent.
- Pigmented spots appear at the site of scratching.
Causes of atopic dermatitis:
The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is still unknown but the few possible causes of this condition are:
Some infants and children are genetically hypersensitive. Such children have high content of IgE antibodies in their blood. IgE antibodies are the main culprits involved in hypersensitivity reactions.
Asthma and hay fever:
Sometimes atopic dermatitis is associated either with hay fever or asthma. Both asthma and hay fever are allergic disorders. In these conditions the production of IgE antibodies is increased in response to allergic stimulus. IgE antibodies have specific receptors on mast cells i.e. cells involved in inflammatory and allergic reactions. When IgE antibodies attach to their receptors there is an activation of mast cells and large quantities of a chemical histamine is released. Histamine acts as a vasodilator and bronchoconstrictor and is responsible for allergic reactions on skin.
Skin problems are more common in people with dry and dehydrated skin. Environmental factors like low humidity, dry air and hot climate enhances the risks of atopic dermatitis.
Factors aggravating atopic dermatitis:
Such factors include:
- Soap and detergents with irritating chemicals.
- Perfumes with harmful chemicals.
- Cosmetics with synthetic components.
- Clothes made of wool and synthetic fiber.
- Common skin infections e.g. infection in response to hot or cold.
- Food allergies e.g. allergies to egg, peanuts, milk, fish and wheat products.
- Exposure to allergens like dust, mites and pollens
- Exposure to smoke of cigarette, cars or industries.
- Intense stress is another aggravation factor.
- Too much exposure to sunlight also increases the chances of dermatitis.
Treatment of atopic dermatitis:
Home remedies and lifestyle changes:
- Avoid using harsh soap because they can change the pH of skin and aggravate the problem. Use only mild soap for cleaning purpose. Dermatologically recommended soap for atopic dermatitis should be used.
- Always wash the clothes before wearing in order to reduce the possibility of presence of any allergen like dust or sand.
- Avoid woolen clothes. Select cotton fabrics for your child.
- Skin hydration is a very important factor in recovering from atopic dermatitis. Use moisturizers to keep your skin properly hydrated.
- Avoid direct exposure to sun. Use high SPF sun blocks to prevent sun burn associated dermatitis.
- Apply cold packs and compresses to reduce the inflammation.
- Keep your child in humid and cool environment.
Following groups of medicine are given in atopic dermatitis to suppress inflammation and allergy of skin:
Corticosteroids, such as hydroxycortisone, are given to treat atopic dermatitis on long term basis. Steroids are anti inflammatory and immunosuppressant drugs. These drugs suppress the immune system of body which is involved in allergic reaction by producing IgE antibodies. Steroids prevent the formation of these antibodies.
These drugs are taken orally. Antihistamines counter the effects of histamine and reduce allergy. Commonly use antihistamine is diphenyhydramine (Benadryl). These drugs may cause sleepiness so taking them before bed time is suggested.
These drugs acts as immunosuppressant and reduce the chances of allergic reaction. This group includes drugs like tacrolimus (protropic) and primecrolimus (Elidel)