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Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis Key Facts

Eczema or, by medical language dermatitis, is the noninfectious inflammation of the skin, which manifests itself through the development of papules, plaques, scales or crusts on the skin surface. The primary sign of eczema is severe itching.

Eczema is the general term for a group of similar skin disorders, including: - contact dermatitis: a localized redness, itching and burning of the skin, caused by contact with allergens, such as detergents, nickel, nail polish, perfumes or other chemicals; - nummular eczema: coin-shaped itchy plaques on arms, back and lower legs; this form of eczema affects mostly elderly men; - dyshidrotic eczema: also known as palmoplantar dermatitis, because it affects only palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it is characterized by clear, deep blisters that itch and burn; - neurodermatitis: scaly patches of skin, which become very itchy when scratched; this form of eczema is more common among women, and it may be caused or triggered by stress.

However, the most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis, affecting up to 10-20% of all infants and about 2% of adults worldwide. In fact, eczema and atopic dermatitis are often interchangeable terms.

What can worsen eczema?
- Stress -
- Certain foods -
- Climatic changes -
- Infection -

- Menstruation in women -

How to ease eczema?
- Don't scratch -

- Wear loose cotton cloth -

- Keep away from home pets and dust -

- Take brief, lukewarm showers -

- Avoid excessive heat and humidity -

The condition is called atopic to emphasize the role of inherited predisposition (atopy) to become hypersensitive or allergic to certain substances in the development of this form of eczema. The most common irritants are ragweed, pollen, dust mites, animal scales or droppings. Atopic dermatitis is rather often accompanied with other atopic diseases, such as asthma or hay fever.

Redness, inflammation, blistering, crusting, peeling, scaling of the skin, its thickening or color changes along with severe itching are the most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Xerosis or dry skin is considered to be the sign of chronic atopic dermatitis.

As a rule, the first symptoms of atopic dermatitis appear in children between second and sixth month of the life. Some of the infants outgrow the problem, though about 75% will still have remissions from time to time. Sometimes the disease develops in adult people, though these cases are uncommon. Children with atopic dermatitis are likely to develop other forms of eczema, such as hand eczema, later in life.

Since the actual mechanism of eczema is not known, there is no medication to cure the condition completely. The major efforts of medicine are directed at weakening the symptoms of eczema, mainly at easing of the itching sensation. Antihistamines and corticosteroids show the best results in helping people cope with eczema.

Light therapy or exposing patients with eczema to ultraviolet light may be beneficial in some cases. The drug psoralen is sometimes used to maximize the effect of light therapy.

Besides, regular use of moisturizers and emollients, avoiding substances, which trigger eczema in every particular case, are considered to be the part of effective strategy for treating atopic dermatitis as well as other types of eczema.

Nick


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