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What is atopic eczema?
Atopic eczema is a common itchy, inflammatory skin condition which tends to run in families with asthma and hay fever and eczema.
Who gets atopic eczema?
It is more common in infants and children. 50% of them tend to outgrow eczema by adolescence. All races are affected with the disease.
What causes the condition?
The exact cause is unknown but both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role. Atopic individuals have a defective barrier in the outer layers of skin and a very reactive immune (defense) system. They are therefore more easily affected by several environmental factors which can lead to eczema. These include:
- Certain foods (milk, peanuts, fish, tomatoes, strawberries)
- Very cold or hot climates
- House dust mite, smoke
- Soaps, detergents causing skin dryness
- Infections (viral and bacterial)
What does atopic eczema look like?
There are different stages on eczema that vary with age and duration of the attack.
Infants tend to have red bumps, water blisters and oozing on scalp, face, neck, chest and outer aspects of arms and legs. Some children and adults who have had eczema for a long time, tend to have dry, thick, rough skin with increased creases on inner aspects of elbows, knees and over the eyes. Atopic eczema tends to be symmetrical affecting both sides of the body.
How can atopic eczema be treated?
Unfortunately, eczema cannot be cured though it resolves on its own in some persons. However it can be effectively controlled with treatment. Affected individuals should avoid any triggers identified. They should avoid scratching and rubbing the area and should wear cotton clothes instead of fabrics made of wool. Treatment approaches for this condition include:
- Moisturizing soap substitutes
- Liberal use of moisturizing (emollient) creams
- Steroid creams and ointments
- Bandaging (wet wraps) under doctor’s orders
- Immune suppressing (non steroid) creams and ointments
- Light therapy where available
- Antibiotics may be necessary
- Oral antihistamine medication for itching
- Psychological support for affected individuals and their families
- Diet - certain foods may be eliminated if they are believed to worsen eczema
- Oral steroids (short term) and oral immune suppressants may be needed in severe cases
- Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases