Jinja: Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is a prevalent skin condition affecting individuals of all ages, from infants to seniors aged 65 and above. This chronic inflammatory disease manifests as recurrent itchy rashes, often associated with allergies. In Jinja, as well as worldwide, individuals grapple with managing this condition, which can range from mild to severe in its impact on their daily lives.
Dr. Annabelle Garcia, a reputable dermatologist at Sonterra Dermatology, emphasizes the distinctive nature of atopic dermatitis. “Unlike mere dry skin,” she explains, “atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that can lead to constant itching, eventually causing the skin to crack and bleed.” The symptoms encompass dry, discolored skin, persistent itching, painful or sore skin rashes that may ooze fluid or bleed due to scratching, sleep disturbances resulting from itching, and the development of thickened, hardened skin from continuous scratching. Common areas for these rashes include the elbow creases, behind the knees, cheeks, and buttocks.
Although the precise causes of atopic dermatitis remain unknown, both environmental factors and genetics are believed to play roles. If a family member experiences atopic dermatitis, the likelihood of others within the family developing it increases. Importantly, these conditions are not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person. The likelihood of atopic dermatitis occurrence is also heightened within families where asthma or allergies are prevalent.
Dr. Garcia underscores that atopic dermatitis entails more than just dry skin. “It often involves red or dark rashes accompanied by persistent itching, which can lead to oozing and bleeding skin lesions,” she explains. While both dry skin and atopic dermatitis can cause flakiness, individuals with the latter condition may fall into an itching-scratching cycle that exacerbates the irritation.
Diagnosing atopic dermatitis can be intricate. Rashes may resemble poison ivy or psoriasis, and diagnosis might be more challenging for individuals with darker skin tones. Dr. Garcia advises individuals with itchy rashes to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis. “Understanding whether you have atopic dermatitis will enable you to manage your skin condition effectively and seek appropriate treatment,” she affirms. While topical treatments may alleviate symptoms of dry skin, a more comprehensive approach could be necessary to address the underlying causes.
Triggers for atopic dermatitis can vary significantly from person to person, according to Dr. Garcia. Generally, avoiding anything that induces itching is crucial to prevent flare-ups. Examples of triggers include rough wool clothing, dry air, skin infections, heat and sweat, stress, cleaning products, dust, tobacco smoke, cold and dry air, scents, and other irritants. In children, reactions may occur due to consumption of eggs and cow’s milk.
Dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis from the Mayo Clinic advocates moisturizing the skin with creams, ointments, Shea butter, and lotions at least twice a day to prevent atopic dermatitis. Moisturizers act as a barrier to seal in moisture. For infants, the use of petroleum jelly can help ward off the onset of the condition. Daily showers lasting about 10 minutes in warm or hot water, using a mild, soap-free cleanser, followed by gentle patting of the skin with a soft towel, are recommended. Dr. Davis also advises against scratching, suggesting a gentle, non-soap cleanser, bleach baths, humidifier use, wearing cool, smooth-textured clothing, and addressing stress and anxiety. For affected areas, applying an anti-itch cream or taking oral allergy or anti-itch prescriptions can also provide relief.
According to Dr. Davis, the first line of treatment for atopic dermatitis involves daily moisturizing and self-care practices. If these prove ineffective, healthcare professionals may recommend medicated creams to alleviate itching and restore skin health. In some cases, these treatments are combined with other therapeutic approaches. Potential treatments for atopic dermatitis include medicated skincare products, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, wet dressings, light therapy, psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, behavior modification, and biofeedback. It’s important to note that even with successful treatment, symptoms might reappear or worsen over time.