What Is Atopic Dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a common eczema that generally manifests in early childhood but can also occur in later stages of life. The term ‘atopy’ is used to cover a wide range of problems such as asthma, eczema, recurrent cold and cough, allergic conjunctivitis and dust allergy. All these disorders are related to the increased allergic tendencies of the body’s immune system.
What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?
There are multiple factors that contribute to the development of atopic dermatitis:
- Genetic factors: A genetic predisposition can make certain children more susceptible to developing the condition
- Environmental factors: A dry or cold climate and pollution can contribute towards the development of the disorder
- External factors: Choice of clothing, soaps, detergents, moisturisers and fragrances all play a role in influencing the onset of the condition
- Immune system: Hyperactivity of the immune system or an increased allergic tendency can lead to the onset of atopic dermatitis
Is Atopic Dermatitis Hereditary?
Atopic dermatitis is most commonly passed down as a hereditary condition. However, it is also known to occur spontaneously in some cases.
What Are the Commonest Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis?
The most common symptoms include:
- Red scaly rashes on the cheeks, neck, wrists, elbows and knee creases
- Moisture-filled skin patches
- Thick, dark skin patches
- Scratching-induced bleeding
How Is Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosed?
The clinical diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is typically performed based on the evaluation of skin patches by a dermatologist, in conjunction with the analysis of a child’s medical history. Blood and skin testing are not generally required.
What Causes Atopic Dermatitis to Aggravate?
Environmental changes, tight clothing, stress in the form of physical illness or emotional tension, infections and skin dryness can aggravate atopic dermatitis.
Can Atopic Dermatitis Be Cured?
Temporary treatment of atopic dermatitis is possible, although long-term care is warranted for the condition. Most children outgrow the disease as they grow older.
Does Atopic Dermatitis Spread By Touch?
Atopic dermatitis is in no way contagious and doesn’t spread through touch.
How Can Atopic Dermatitis Be Treated?
There are several ways to manage atopic dermatitis, that may be used independently or in combination with one another:
- Moisturisers: This is the most commonly recommended form of treatment; the quality, quantity and frequency of application of moisturisers is important while managing atopic dermatitis
- Avoidance of soap: Using mild and gentle cleansing agents for washing and bathing can also help in treatment
- Steroid creams and ointments: For more severe cases, steroid creams and ointments, applied under the strict supervision and guidance of a paediatric or general dermatologist can help in relieving acute problems; however, steroid-free creams and ointments are generally preferred during long-term treatment plans
- Anti-itch medicines: Medication that serves to reduce itching can soothe the skin and ease irritation
- Avoidance of home remedies: Eliminating home remedies and alternative medicine can be beneficial since the ingredients in them may be crude and may cause unnecessary aggravation
If atopic dermatitis continues to aggravate, oral medication may be prescribed for a stipulated period to reduce the intensity of the problem.
Dr. Samipa S. Mukherjee
Paediatric Dermatologist & Dermatologist
Cloudnine Hospitals, Old Airport Road & Malleshwaram, Bengaluru