Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) – Symptoms & Causes Explained
Atopic dermatitis is a common skin condition that leads to excessively dry and itchy skin that can easily become inflamed and painful. It is more often referred to as atopic eczema, and the National Eczema Association states that 1 in 10 individuals is likely to develop this skin condition at some point in their lives – though it is most prevalent in young children.
Thankfully, atopic dermatitis is generally not a serious condition. It can be treated with a range of products or lifestyle changes that can bring relief and calm the most irritating symptoms. It is also a non-contagious skin condition, so contact with other people will not spread it around.
At Derick Dermatology, we provide medical dermatology services that can aid individuals with atopic eczema. If you’re suffering from this issue and it’s having a negative impact on your life, opting for medical treatments can be the best way to see long-term results. With that being said, the first step is identifying if you have atopic dermatitis or something else.
Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis are relatively easy to see. It’s important to note that this skin condition can happen anywhere on the body. A lot of individuals experience atopic eczema on their arms or lower limbs, while others see most of the symptoms around the chest area.
Some of the most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis are:
- Dry skin
- Cracked skin Red and inflamed areas on your skin
- Extra sensitive skin that hurts when you touch it
- Excessive itchiness leading to skin flaking
- Darkening of the skin – particularly on the face, around the eye region
- Very small red dots on the skin
Most individuals with atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis will experience the symptoms above every single day. However, there are cases when your atopic dermatitis can worsen and become infected. Symptoms of infected atopic eczema include:
- Pus oozing from the skin
- Excessive bleeding around the afflicted area
- A yellow crust appeared on the skin
To reiterate, it’s rare that atopic dermatitis leads to these symptoms. This only happens when you get an infection, which is not seen all too often. If you notice these signs, contact a medical professional right away for assistance. You will need to clear up the infection before embarking on any treatment plans.
Atopic Dermatitis Causes
Atopic dermatitis can be caused or triggered by a variety of factors.
Unlike contact dermatitis, it isn’t necessarily caused by contact with certain things or products. Instead, the main causes of atopic dermatitis are:
- Genes – If your family has a history of atopic eczema, it’s highly likely you will also develop it. Likewise, if there’s a long line of people in your family with allergies or asthma, these two conditions are closely linked to atopic dermatitis and you have a higher chance of contracting it. Certain genes may also predispose you to atopic dermatitis as they cause your skin to be bad at retaining moisture. As a result, you suffer from chronically dry and itchy skin.
- Immune System – We all have immune systems and they fight to protect us from disease and other potentially bad things. Unfortunately, it’s found that patients with atopic dermatitis experience a misdirected immune reaction. Your immune system believes that certain antigens or allergens are going to cause harm, triggering a response to defend against it. The body’s natural way of defending itself is to drive blood flow to an area of the body, causing inflammation. From here, inflammation can trigger the symptoms of atopic eczema and leave you with irritated skin.
What Triggers Atopic Dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis can be triggered by a range of environmental factors as well. These triggers will cause flare-ups, which means finding ways to avoid them can help to calm your symptoms.
Some of the most frequently seen triggers of atopic dermatitis are:
- Low humidity in the air
- Certain makeup products
- Some harsh skin care products
- Highly fragranced soaps
- Allergens in the air
- Any other allergies you may have
- Hormonal changes
- Irritable clothing materials
We must stress that atopic dermatitis can differ from person to person. Your triggers may not be the same as someone else’s. The best way to figure out your triggers is by monitoring your skin for flare-ups all the time. When you notice the signs of atopic dermatitis, make a note of what you did or what the weather was like. Every time this happens, you may notice patterns developing. For instance, whenever you wear a certain outfit, it triggers your atopic eczema. This could tell you that the particular material is a big trigger for you.
Treatment – How Do You Fix Atopic Dermatitis?
Treating atopic eczema is fairly straightforward and can be done at home.
Primarily, you should acquire the following:
- Moisturizers – Certain moisturizers for sensitive skin are formulated to be used on an atopic eczema rash. You will have to use these every day or when flare-ups happen to moisturize your skin and prevent dryness. Often, this is all that’s needed to get quick relief from dryness and itchy skin.
- Topical ointments – You can also find topical corticosteroid creams that may be applied to the affected area. The steroids in these creams are designed to help counter inflammation and reduce any redness or swelling in the area.
- Antihistamines – If your atopic dermatitis is largely triggered by allergies or allergic reactions, taking antihistamines can help reduce your symptoms. This common allergy medication can stop itching and prevent flare-ups in some individuals.
For most individuals, these treatments are all you need to calm any symptoms and see relief. However, if your atopic dermatitis is severe – and these over-the-counter treatments don’t work – you should see a qualified dermatologist for something stronger.
It is also advised that you avoid triggers to treat this skin condition. In some people, avoiding triggers is all that’s required to see massive improvements in their skin. Follow the advice outlined earlier to try and recognize your main triggers. Once you’ve done this, try avoiding them as much as you can while monitoring your atopic dermatitis. If it gets considerably better, you know that staying away from triggers is the key to treating your condition.
Understandably, dealing with some triggers is easier than others. If your trigger is a type of clothing material, it is much easier to avoid than someone whose main trigger is stress. Figure out your triggers and then seek out professional help to combat them as best as you can.
Atopic Dermatitis – Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a difference between atopic dermatitis and eczema?
Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema. It is widely considered the most common type of eczema, though others do exist. Eczema is a skin condition that causes inflammation, dry skin, and chronic itchiness. Other types include allergic contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis, discoid eczema, and stasis dermatitis.
What does an atopic dermatitis rash look like?
An atopic dermatitis rash is typically characterized as being red and crusty, often with peeling or cracked areas of the skin. It will appear in patches on different parts of the body, with some of the biggest problem areas being the face, chest, arms, lower legs, and back of the knee joint.
In extreme cases, atopic dermatitis rashes may have pus oozing from the skin, though this is typically a sign of an infection.
Is contact dermatitis the same as atopic dermatitis?
No, contact dermatitis is a skin condition triggered by contact with certain irritants. In essence, you will only experience the symptoms – which are similar to atopic dermatitis – when your skin touches particular things.
Atopic dermatitis can occur without contact with anything as it could be caused by genetics or your immune system.
Should you scratch an atopic dermatitis rash?
No. You should never scratch an atopic dermatitis rash. Scratching can lead to infections as well as triggering harsher symptoms such as bleeding and more inflammation. While it may feel good to scratch your itch, avoid doing so or you will complicate the condition and make it much worse.
Overall, atopic dermatitis is not a serious concern, though it can be extremely irritating and a cause of self-confidence issues. The important thing is to identify this condition and find ways of treating the symptoms so they no longer have a negative impact on your life.
Contact a Dermatologist Near You
As previously mentioned, Derick Dermatology provides medical treatments for multiple forms of eczema, including atopic dermatitis. We will help diagnose your condition and discuss all the different treatment options based on your triggers. Feel free to get in touch with us today if you’d like to learn more about what we do and how we can help. Or, if you’d like to request an appointment, please visit a Derick Dermatology location near you.
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Derick Dermatology is a leading authority in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatological services with 23 stunning dermatology practices in Chicago, IL, and Tampa Bay, FL. Our dedicated dermatologists offer exceptional dermatological services for both adult and pediatric patients. Please complete our online form or call our main number at (866) 337-4251 to schedule a consultation.