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Atopic Dermatitis, or most often known as Eczema, is a term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. Atopic Dermatitis is the most common type of eczema.
It is estimated that Eczema affects around 35 million Americans every year. Eczema affects about 10% to 20% of infants and about 3% of adults and children in the United States. Most infants and children who develop the condition outgrow it by the time they turn ten years of age. Others, however; continue to have recurring symptoms throughout the rest of their lives. The good news is that with proper treatment, the disease can often be controlled.
No matter which part of the skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy. Sometimes, before the rash begins to appear, itching will start. Many people then will notice a rash, which most commonly appears on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet. It is important to remember that eczema can appear anywhere on one's body.
Affected areas of the skin usually appear extremely dry, thick, or scaly. Depending on the tone of one's skin, the rash may initially begin to look red in color, but then turn brown. Or, if a person is dark skinned, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker.
In infants and young children, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that happens mainly on the face and scalp, but the patches can appear anywhere on the body.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but researchers believe that it is linked to an overactive response by the body's immune system to an irritant. it is this response that leads to the symptoms of eczema. Also, eczema is commonly found in families who have a history of other allergies, or asthma. Some doctors say that defects in the skin barrier could allow moisture out and germs in, thus leading to the symptoms of eczema.
Many times, some people will experience flare-ups of the itchy rash in response to certain substances or conditions. There are several different factors that can cause the skin to become itchy or irritated, such as: rough or coarse materials, body temperature, exposure to certain household products including soap and laundry detergent, or coming into contact with animal dander may cause an outbreak.
For some patients, upper respiratory infections, colds, or stress may trigger the condition, or cause eczema to worsen.
Although there is no cure for eczema, most people can effectively manage this condition with medical treatment, and by avoiding irritants. Eczema is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.
When discussing treatment options, the goal for your physician is to provide you with relief and prevent itching because the constant itching can lead to infection. Since eczema makes the skin dry and itchy, lotions and creams are recommended to keep moisture within the skin. Usually, these products can be applied when the skin is damp to help retain moisture.
Over the counter products, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream, or prescription creams and ointments that contain corticosteroids, are often used to lessen inflammation. Or, if the affected area on the skin becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria that is causing the infection.
Antihistamines are also used to lessen severe itching. Other treatments include: tar treatments - chemicals designed to reduce itching, phototherapy - using ultraviolet light that is applied to the skin, and the drug cyclosporine - for people whose condition hasn't responded to other treatments.
Recently, the FDA has approved two medications known as topical immunomodulators for treatment of mild to moderate eczema. The topical medications are Elidel and Protopic, and they are skin creams that work by altering the immune system's response to prevent flare ups. Though approved, the FDA has warned doctors to prescribe these medications only if other available eczema treatments have failed. The FDA warns doctors to prescribe these with caution, as there may be a possible cancer risk associated with their use. These creams should only be used in adults and children over the age of two.
Eczema outbreaks can be avoided or severely lessened by taking the following precautions:
- Moisturize your skin frequently.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity.
- Avoid sweating (as much as possible) or overheating.
- Reduce stress as much as possible.
- Avoid scratchy and rough materials, such as wool.
- Avoid harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents.
- Be aware of any foods that may bring on an outbreak, and avoid those foods.
As always, consult with a physician or medical expert for the best solution to treat eczema. Though there is no specific test for eczema, your doctor can often determine the diagnosis simply by checking your skin and asking a few questions. Your doctor may also perform allergy tests to determine what the possible triggers or irritants are. Children who have eczema are especially likely to be tested for allergies.
Here at Mountainside Medical, we offer a wide variety of creams, lotions, and other treatment supplies for eczema. Please visit our website at www.mountainside-medical.com or call 1-888-687-4334 to speak with one of our knowledgeable and friendly specialists for more information.