What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, red and itchy skin. It is one of the commonest skin conditions affecting both children and adults.
How is it caused?
Atopic dermatitis is currently thought to be caused due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The genetically defective skin barrier leads to excess loss of water from the skin and increased penetration of microorganisms and allergens into the skin. This leads to activation of the immune system of the body leading to inflammatory reaction in the skin.
What are the common symptoms?
The common symptoms include dryness, redness, itching and scaling of the skin. The itching tends to continue throughout the day and tends to get worse at night. This can lead to sleep disturbance. Infection of the skin can lead to watery discharge from the affected areas.
The area of the skin involved depend upon the age. In babies, it involves the scalp, face, neck, outer surfaces of hands and legs. In older children the front of the elbows, back of the knees, wrists and ankles are involved.
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is made by clinical findings. In a small proportion of children, the symptoms can be caused by allergies including some foods. In such cases allergy testing can be done under the guidance of an allergy specialist.
How can we treat this condition?
It can be prevented by continuously keeping the skin moist. Daily bath can be given by moisturizing soaps. After the bath, moisturizers or emollients should be applied liberally to the skin to preserve moisture and prevent dryness of the skin.
Once the skin is affected with atopic dermatitis, appropriate creams and lotions can be used to reduce the symptoms. If not properly treated it can lead to complications including infection, thickening and pigmentation of the skin.
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