Ouch! Itchy, red skin is no fun. It is often hard to hide and even harder to live with on a daily basis. But what could be causing it? Atopic dermatitis (better known as eczema) is something that affects about 16.5 million people with about 6.6 million reporting moderate to severe symptoms. People used to think of eczema as a childhood disease, but it is now obvious that eczema can persist—and even show up for the first time—well into adulthood.
So, how do you know if you have atopic dermatitis? How is it diagnosed? Let’s take a look at how to spot eczema and effectively treat its invasive symptoms.
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) Symptoms
Atopic Dermatitis Disease affects people of all ages and causes an array of symptoms, for which there is no cure. Some of the most prevalent symptoms include:
- Itching (which can especially be severe at night)
- Dry skin
- Patches of red to brownish-gray skin (particularly on the hands, neck, upper chest, the inner bends of the knees and elbows, and even the eyelids)
- Scaly, thick, cracked skin
- Small, raised bumps that might leak fluid if scratched
- Swollen, sensitive, raw skin from itching
Eczema can flare up every few years. Even though it normally starts around age 5, it can last or return in adulthood.
It is thought that a genetic variation is the root cause of atopic dermatitis. Environmental factors, including food allergens, are thought to play a role in the development of eczema as well.
Complications and Risk Factors
There are some things that can complicate atopic dermatitis or serve as risk factors for developing it in the first place. Among those risk factors are:
- having a family history of atopic dermatitis
- having hay fever
Some of these things also result from eczema. For example, asthma and hay fever tend to occur later on in childhood after the onset of eczema. Research estimates that half of all children with eczema will develop asthma and hay fever by the time they reach the age of 13. Eczema also causes sleep disorders, allergic contact dermatitis, irritant hand dermatitis, chronic itch and scaly skin, and skin infections.
Atopic dermatitis is a disease that has been well-researched in recent years and has quite a few treatment options. You will need to start off with letting your doctor examine your skin in order to make the diagnosis.
From there, a doctor might prescribe creams like a corticosteroid or calcineurin inhibitors. Should an infection develop, you might have to take oral antibiotics or use a topical antibiotic. Prednisone might be suggested for those experiencing chronic skin inflammation.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved an injectable biologic called dupilumab (Dupixent). Since it is so new, there haven’t been any long-term studies of its efficacy. It is predominantly being used as a last resort for treating severe cases of people who haven’t responded well to typical treatment methods.
Atopic dermatitis does not have to control your—or your child’s—life. If you suspect that red, itchy, scaly skin you see might be eczema, call your doctor. There are treatment options available for all degrees of sy