Atopic dermatitis is a common skin disorder. Although genetics and environmental factors can play a role, the disease is treatable. Although most children outgrow the condition before they reach adolescence, some continue to suffer through adulthood. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for atopic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis usually starts on the face or scalp, but can also develop on elbows, knees, eyelids, and even genitals. It is often itchy and may turn to blisters. In children, the condition is more likely to affect the face and torso, while in adults, it may spread to elbows, eyelids, and genitals. Treatment for atopic dermatitis depends on its cause and the severity of symptoms.
Patients with atopic dermatitis often have a compromised epidermal barrier, causing them to be more susceptible to allergens. These allergens include grass, pollen, and house dust mites. These allergens activate TH2 lymphocytes and stimulate IgE synthesis. In some cases, the symptoms of atopic dermatitis can be improved by removing the source of the allergen.
Some families are genetically predisposed to atopic dermatitis. About one-quarter of children in the U.S. suffer from eczema, and more than half will also have asthma or hay fever. Living in a cold climate or in an area with high air pollution may also increase the risk of developing eczema. Although there is no cure for eczema, treatments for atopic dermatitis include steroid creams and oral steroids.
Infection is another risk factor. Children with atopic dermatitis have a compromised immune system and are at higher risk for developing herpes simplex virus infection. Herpes simplex virus infections can result in fatal complications. Children with atopic dermatitis are also prone to infection with molluscum contagiosum and human papillomavirus.
Treatments for atopic dermatitis depend on the severity of the disease. The main goal of treatment is to reduce the number of flare-ups and increase the length of time a patient is disease-free. Generally, topical corticosteroids are the mainstay treatment for atopic dermatitis, while topical calcineurin inhibitors have been increasingly important as adjunct therapy. In some cases, systemic corticosteroids may be required to reduce the risk of secondary infections. In addition, oral antihistamines may be helpful for reducing pruritus. In severe cases, phototherapy and systemic immunosuppressive drugs may also be used.
Atopic dermatitis can be aggravated by the cold or dry weather, and itching may become worse when it is cold or dry. For these reasons, patients should limit the exposure to cold or humid conditions, especially during the day. Taking a shower frequently may also reduce the symptoms of the disease. It is recommended to use warm water instead of hot water, and pat the skin dry afterward. In addition, the skin must be moisturized and protected from contact with harmful materials.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease that occurs mainly in children. However, it can also affect adults. Atopic dermatitis can last a lifetime, and it is difficult to predict when the condition will improve or go away. Several studies have found that 20% of children with atopic dermatitis were still affected eight years later. Earlier diagnosis of the condition may help prevent further damage from the condition.