Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema: Diagnosis and Treatment
Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema (AD) is a common skin disease in children. It is so common that people have given it a few names:
• Eczema (name most people use)
• Atopic eczema
• Atopic dermatitis
Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema
Researchers are still studying what causes AD. Through their studies, they have learned that AD:
• Is not contagious: There is no need to worry about catching it or giving it to someone.
• Runs in families: People who get AD usually have family members who have AD, asthma, or hay fever. This means that genes play a role in causing AD.
• Children are more likely to develop AD if one or both parents have AD, asthma, or hay fever.
• About half (50%) of the people with severe AD (covers a large area of the body or is very troublesome) will get asthma and about two-thirds (66%) will get hay fever.
Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema is most common in children in their first year of life but can also be present in children and adults. It appears as dry and scaly patches on the skin. These patches often appear on the scalp, forehead, and face in young infants and in the creases of the elbows or knees in children and adults. Other common places for the rash to appear are the neck, wrists, ankles, and/or crease between the buttocks and legs.
It is often very itchy. Infants may rub their skin against bedding or carpeting to relieve the itch.
In people of all ages, the itch can be so intense it can cause lack of sleep. Scratching can lead to a skin infection.
Because atopic dermatitis can be long lasting, it is important to learn how to take care of the skin. Treatment and good skin care can alleviate much of the discomfort.
Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema Treatment
Treatment cannot cure AD, but it can control it. Treatment is important because it can:
• Prevent the AD from getting worse.
• Calm the skin, relieving pain and itch.
• Reduce emotional stress.
• Prevent infections.
• Stop the skin from thickening. Thickened skin often itches all the time — even when the AD is not flaring.
A treatment plan often includes medicine, skin care, and lifestyle changes. Skin care and lifestyle changes can help prevent flare-ups. Many patients receive tips for coping. Doing all of this may seem bothersome but sticking to the plan can make a big difference. A dermatologist will create a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs. Medicine and other therapies will be prescribed as needed to:
• Control itching.
• Reduce skin inflammation (redness and swelling).
• Clear infection.
• Loosen and remove scaly lesions.
• Reduce new lesions from forming.
Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema Treatment Outcome
Studies have found that when AD develops in an infant or young child, the child tends to get better with time. For some children, the condition completely disappears by age 2. About half (50%) of the children who get AD will have it as an adult. The good news is that the AD often becomes milder with age. There is no way to know whether the AD will go away or be a lifelong disease. This makes treatment especially important. Treatment can stop the AD from getting worse. Treatment also helps to relieve the discomfort.
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