Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

At first it may seem a little bit confusing…Dermatitis or Eczema? What is the difference? Are they the same? 

These 2 terms are used as a generic term
(dictionary definition of a generic term = is a word or phrase that is used to describe some general or vague group or class, rather than some specific thing). 

In simple terms, eczema and dermatitis are interchangeably used to describe inflammation of the skin. It is classed as a condition as it causes abnormal state of health which then interferes with healthy feelings of wellbeing. Eczema/dermatitis results in patches of the skin to become rough, as well as inflamed with blisters, causing itching and even bleeding. 

There are different types of eczema/dermatitis due to the disease being caused by different factors, containing different symptoms therefore, requiring suitable treatment(s). 

In this article we will focus on Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema (ADE). 

Definition & Cause of Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema

Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema is the most common type of dermatitis/eczema. It is a chronic (long lasting) condition resulting in the skin being inflamed accompanied by redness and itchiness. It most commonly occurs in children however, it may occur at any time of your life. It usually tends to flare periodically. A person with ADE is at a higher risk of developing asthma and allergies (especially hay fever), by the way. 

Scientists have not yet discovered the exact cause of ADE. However, it is thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system (hence the presence of respiratory conditions and allergies) to an irritant. This immune response most likely causes eczema/dermatitis.

Symptoms & Triggers

These are the most common symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema. 

  • Dry skin
  • Inflamed skin
  • Flaky/scaly patches
  • Itching

There are certain factors that may trigger the  flare up to develop: 

    • ALLERGENS & ENVIRONMENT
      Pollen, pet fur, mould, cold/dry weather, dampness, dust
    • FOOD ALLERGIES
      e.g. peanuts, eggs, soya, wheat)
    • IRRITANTS
      Fabrics, soaps, household cleaners, detergents
    • CERTAIN MATERIALS
      Wool, synthetic
    • STRESS
    • DRY SKIN 
    • INFECTION

It’s useful to be aware of the triggers as there are things you can do to avoid preventable flare ups (prevention is better than cure right?:) ) 

Treatments

EMOLLIENTS 

It is important to moisturise with emollients as the condition causes the skin to become dry as it is unable to retain moisture which results in the itchiness and soreness which causes damage to the skin due to itching/rubbing the skin. When the skin is well moisturised, it reduces the chance of it reacting to the triggers mentioned previously and soothes symptoms. 

There are different types of emollients. They can come in forms of a cream, lotions and ointments and may also be used as a bath additive or a shower wash. Try different emollients to discover which is most suitable and preferred for your needs! 

ANTI-HISTAMINES

Taking oral antihistamines will help with the itchiness of the rash. Antihistamines are available over the counter in a pharmacy. If you require a higher strength, you need a prescription off the doctors/dermatologist. 

TOPICAL CORTICOSTEROIDS 

Topical corticosteroids (steroids) are anti-inflammatory medicines that may be used to treat this type of condition. It is applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation and irritation. It may come in different forms such as creams, lotions and gels. 

There are 4 different strengths of Topical Corticosteroids:

  1. Mild
  2. Moderate
  3. Potent
  4. Very potent 

Hydrocortisone cream is a mild topical corticosteroid that may be purchased over the counter (OTC) in the pharmacy. However, as it is a steroid cream it should NOT BE USED ON THE FACE (unless directed by the doctor) as it thins out the skin! 

If mild topical corticosteroids do not work or you need something for ADE on your face, seek medical attention and go to the doctors/dermatologist. 

Self Care Tips

  • Try different types of emollients to discover which is the most suitable and preferred to your needs!
  • Use your emollient regularly to keep your skin moisturised
  • Drink the recommended 8 glasses of water to help the skin be hydrated
  • Avoid triggers that may cause episodes of flare ups 
  • If the skin becomes severely damaged you can apply a bandage to stop yourself from making it worse and let it heal quicker. 
  • Keep your nails short and clean to avoid irritation/infection when you can’t resist from scratching
  • Wear light clothing and avoid tight clothing to reduce irritation from materials. 
  • Before using any topical corticosteroids, seek medical advice from a doctor/dermatologist

Conclusion

Now that you know what dermatitis/eczema is and realise you may be suffering it is important you seek medical attention to confirm the diagnosis and receive the correct treatment as soon as you can. If you suffer from ADE it is important you stay consistent with the treatment and look after your skin daily to avoid the possibility of a flare up caused by a trigger. Prevention is better than cure right? Let me know if you suffer from dermatitis/eczema and what treatment you find that works best for you!

 

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