To understand atopic dermatitis, you have to understand where the term atopic comes from. Atopic is derived from the word atopy which describes a group who have a history, either themselves or in the family, of asthma, eczema, hay fever, and dry skin. Taking all of these factors into account, atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema that is a chronic condition which produces a symmetrical occurrence of itchy rashes. These rashes can become irritated and red with inflammation, cracking, oozing, scaling and crusting.
Atopic Dermatitis Statistics
Fifteen to twenty million people in this country have symptoms that are representative of atopic dermatitis and these cases represent up to 20% of the cases that end up at the dermatologists office. Many people who have atopic dermatitis developed it early in life, with most of them before the age of five. Both females and males have equal chance of developing this itchy rash and are more than likely living in low humidity areas where there is less moisture in the air.
It is important to note that atopic dermatitis can be chronic, starting as an infant, as mentioned above. There are typically unpredictable cycles of this rash condition with it sometimes going into remission for periods of time while progressing at other times. With luck, many youngsters with atopic dermatitis grow up with fewer and fewer symptoms along with decreasing frequency of the skin condition.
While atopic dermatitis can lessen as you age, the skin is still often dry and can be irritated with ease. Therefore, it is important to always keep the skin hydrated and moisturized as outside environmental elements or even an unrelated illness could easily trigger an outbreak of the condition.
You can expect during outbreaks of atopic dermatitis to have the telltale rash over the face and trunk of the body. In addition, this rash can turn quite itchy and break out into papules which ooze fluid and crust over into blisters. Skin can also be dry, scaly and bumpy, especially in the bended areas of the body like the elbows and knees.
Causes and Skin Changes
There seems to be a tie in to both genetic and environmental factors when it comes to atopic dermatitis. For some reason, those with hay fever or asthma or have incidences of it in the family are more susceptible to forming atopic dermatitis. No one quite knows why this is the case.
Some researchers suggest there may be abnormalities in certain cells in bone marrow which deal with immunological response. Luckily, atopic dermatitis is not contagious but there is nothing that can be done in terms of a cure.
When skin is in normal condition, the outer layer called the epidermis holds dead and dry skin cells which provide a protective barrier against outside irritants as well as keep the skin hydrated. When you have atopic dermatitis, moisture is lost through the epidermal layer causing cracking and dry skin. Protection of the skin is decreased and you are susceptible to all sorts of other skin conditions like fungal infections, warts, bacterial infections and even the herpes virus that causes cold sores.
Because there is no known cure for atopic dermatitis, the primary part of the treatment of it is spent alleviating the symptoms. Steroid creams can help in reducing the swelling and irritation. There are also anti-itch creams to alleviate the itching so that you scratch less. Keeping the home humid will help to keep skin from drying out as well, as it could exacerbate the atopic dermatitis.