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Atopic Dermatitis

Characterized by irritated, inflamed, itchy patches of skin, the diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is often used interchangeably with the diagnosis of eczema. Estimates suggest that between 10 to 20 percent of the world’s population suffers from atopic dermatitis. Anyone with allergies, asthma, or a family history of eczema-like conditions may have an increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis. You cannot catch atopic dermatitis from someone else.

Causes
Thought of as a skin allergy or sensitivity, atopic dermatitis has no specific cause. Atopic dermatitis is related to how your immune system responds to contact with germs and allergens. Genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role in the development of atopic dermatitis. Certain things can trigger a flare up of the condition including climate, temperature, irritants, stress and infection. Most cases of atopic dermatitis develop during the first year of life, and many resolve themselves by 18 to 24 months. Some people live with constant cycles of remission and recurrence throughout their lifetime.

Symptoms
With atopic dermatitis, the skin typically develops itchy patches and inflammation that leads to swelling, redness, cracking, crusting, weeping and scaling. Usually atopic dermatitis appears on the face, wrists, hands, folds of the arms and the back of the knees. The itchiness and inflammation often cause scratching which worsens the condition of the skin.

Treatments
Although no cure exists for atopic dermatitis, various therapies can help manage the symptoms. Often doctors recommend moisturizers to reduce dryness, antihistamines to reduce itching, corticosteroids to control inflammation and immune modulators to suppress the skin’s reaction. If a secondary infection develops because of cracking or scratching, your physician will prescribe a topical or oral medication to resolve the issue.

Prevention
Following these tips can help reduce symptoms and manage atopic dermatitis:

  • Avoid known triggers
  • Bath in lukewarm water
  • Choose light-weight cotton clothing
  • Frequently apply moisturizers to skin
  • Keep fingernails short
  • Stay cool
  • Wear hand mitts while you sleep

 

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