Atopic eczema is a chronic skin condition in which the affected skin becomes very itchy and red. It is mostly seen in children, but can also be present in other age groups.
Atopic eczema is usually seen in those people who have allergic tendencies like asthma or allergic rhinitis or has someone in the family with atopic eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis or other form of allergies.
The symptoms of atopic eczema vary from person to person. There are acute flares of red, itchy skin followed by normal appearance of the skin in between the flare ups.
Sometimes atopic eczema can be chronic with dry and itchy skin. The affected skin area can become thickened and indurated.
Atopic eczema starts usually by age 5 and persists till adolescence and sometimes even in adulthood.
The common symptoms of atopic eczema are:
- Severe itchy skin
- Itching mostly at night
- Reddish patches on the skin
- Small raised red patches on the skin which gives out watery fluid or even blood at times after scratching
- Thickened, crusted or dry, scaly skin.
- Sensitive and swollen skin
Factors that can worsen the signs and symptoms of atopic eczema are:
- Dry skin due to constant hot showers
- Scratching which leads to more damage to the skin
- Bacteria and viruses
- Woolen clothes, blankets, carpets etc
- Dust and pollen
- Certain soaps, detergents, etc
- Weather changes
- Certain foods like eggs, milk, peanuts, wheat, fish etc.
The exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown. But it is believed that atopic eczema arises due to a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.
The healthy skin helps to retain moisture and keeps the skin safe from bacteria and other irritants that cause damage to the skin.
The possible causes of atopic eczema can be:
- A dry, scaly skin which reduces the skin’s ability to keep the moisture locked inside and thus makes it easy for the bacteria and other irritants to cross the skin barrier.
- Weak immune system that makes the individual more prone to get atopic eczema
- Abnormal functioning of some genes which affects the skin’s barrier function
- Bacteria like staphylococci on the skin that blocks the sweat glands
- Environmental changes like change in humidity or changes in the heat
- Continuous use of irritants like soaps or detergents, cosmetics, perfumes, woolen clothes etc
- Constant exposure to dusty environments
Atopic eczema needs no tests for diagnosis. It is diagnosed by careful skim examination of the patient by the doctor and by asking the medical history.
Patch test or skin prick test can be used to rule out other skin conditions.
- Moisturize the skin at least twice in a day. The moisturizers should be applied on the skin immediately after taking bath when the skin is still damp.
- Avoid scratching of the skin as much as possible as it can lead to more skin damage.
- Do not use deodorants, perfumes or any other cosmetics on the affected areas of the skin
- Use mild soaps ( moisturizing or glycerin) which do not cause irritation of the skin
- Use cotton clothes which are loose and comfortable. Do not use too tight clothes.
- Performing yoga can help to reduce stress and thus aid in healing eczema