What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?
National Jewish Health physician Mark Boguniewicz, MD, discusses the two leading theories on the cause of atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease which in some countries is also known as “eczema.” The ailment is one of the many forms of dermatitis or skin disease.
Atopic dermatitis most of the time occurs with some other atopic diseases or ailments whose exact infected locations are not really traceable. Some of these diseases include asthma, hay fever and conjunctivitis. In the past, and even presently, atopic dermatitis is mistaken for psoriasis, another skin disease.
This skin disease is most of the time chronic and symptoms and manifestations can further develop, continue to exist or disappear over some time. When you say chronic, that’s “doctorspeak” to indicate that the disease is treatable but not really curable.
Treatments like ointments and other forms are generally used to ease or relieve the itchiness or discomfort brought about by atopic dermatitis. These treatments are also used to reduce or diminish the affected area in the skin.
Atopic dermatitis usually shows up or affects infants whose ages may range from one month to six months. In the US, about 60% of atopic dermatitis patients experience their first onset of this skin disease when they were just one year old. Approximately 90% of atopic dermatitis patients in the country got the skin disease when they were about 5 years old and younger. There are cases of an atopic dermatitis onset during adolescent years but they are very uncommon and rare.
Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis:
Be aware that manifestation or symptoms of this itchy and uncomfortable skin disease vary with age.
Generally, atopic dermatitis is characterized by the presence of lesions which occur or can be found in different areas of the body, depending on age and are characterized by unusual and unaesthetic skin drying.
For example, an infant has eczema if he has lesions in the extensor surfaces, the face or in the trunk. For young children, they are found in ankles and wrists. In adults, these lesions may be found in the upper chest, in the neck, in the face and in the genitals or sex organs.
For infants and children with atopic dermatitis, rashes also occur during warmer weather. These rashes will surely worsen with the climate change from warm to winter or colder climate.
Treating atopic dermatitis:
Modern medicine believes that atopic dermatitis may be worsened or complicated by stress or emotional and psychological anxieties.
The dryness in the infected area in the skin can be practically reduced by avoiding and preventing further contact with the allergen that may have caused or triggered the onset of atopic dermatitis.
Moisturizers are available and easily accessible in local drug stores and retail chains but it is important to seek a doctor’s or a dermatologist’s prescription and consultation first. Self-treatment or self-prescription should be avoided for it may only worsen the skin disease.
Use of strong and harsh soaps must also be reduced to help prevent further drying of the skin. Most soaps today have chemicals that wash away and put out the natural oil produced by the skin. These natural oils contain substances that will help prevent skin drying.
Of course, jut like other skin diseases, the most basic and general prevention for atopic dermatitis is through proper and practical hygiene.
Avoid skin contact with allergens like skin irritating chemicals, solvents and clothes. As much as possible, also avoid too much exposure to extreme climates like very high or very low temperatures. It can be hard to explain but emotional stress can also be a factor causing atopic dermatitis so as much as possible avoid it, as well as exposure to excessive or even a little tobacco smoke.