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The word atopic refers to the collection of diseases that involves the immune system such as asthma and hay fever.

Almost 31.6 per cent of people in the United States are at different stages of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is also termed is another term for eczema. The word atopic refers to the collection of diseases that involves the immune system such as asthma and hay fever. The word dermatitis refers to the inflammation of the skin. The symptoms of such atopic dermatitis vary depending on the age of the person. This condition is mostly seen in infants. Dry and scaly patches appear on the skin and such patches are itchy.

Such atopic dermatitis might develop even before the age of 5 years. Symptoms remain even till adulthood for almost half of the people who develop dermatitis at a younger age. The symptoms are very much different from those appearing in childhood.

Rashes under and over 2 years old till puberty:

  • Rashes on the scalp, cheeks, behind creases of elbows or knees.
  • Rashes bubble up and then leaks fluid. There might be too much itchiness thereby affecting sleep.

Over time, the following happens:

  • Rashes becoming bumpy, either light or dark in colour.
  • Rashes can thicken and then develop knots while being a permanent itch.
  • The skin appearance depends on the person affected. If the person scratches or rubs it further then it irritates the skin and increases inflammation while making the irritation worse.

Causes:

The specific cause of eczema is not known. However, according to common belief, it is caused due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. This disease is not contagious and children are more likely to develop such condition if a parent has had the same or similar condition. The risk increases if both the parents have had an atopic disease. There are a few environmental factors that instigate the symptoms and these are:

  • Irritants such as detergents, shampoos, soaps, fruits, meat, vegetables.
  • Allergens such as pets, dust mites and dandruff.
  • Very hot or very cold weather along with high or low humidity or perspiration from too much exercise.
  • Foods such as nuts, seeds, dairy products, wheat, soy products can result in eczema flare-ups.
  • Women can experience the symptoms, even more, when the hormone levels are changing.
  • Even though stress is not a direct cause but it might make symptoms worse.

Treatment:

No treatment is available for eczema. Doctors usually provide a plan of treatment that is based on the age of the individual, the current state of health and the symptoms. For some people, such condition goes away easily with time, while for others it may remain as a lifelong condition.

Home care:

Here are a few points that people can follow if they are affected by eczema.

  • Take lukewarm baths
  • Apply moisturiser within the first few minutes of bathing.
  • Wear cotton and soft fabrics while avoiding scratchy fibres and any tight-fitting clothes.
  • Air dry the skin or gently towel dry it.
  • Avoid rapid changes in temperature or the activities that might make you sweat.
  • You may use a humidifier if the weather is cold or dry.
  • To stop the skin from breaking when you itch, keep your nails short.

Types of eczema:

There is a number of types of eczema, for example:

  • Dyshidrotic eczema: appears on the skin on the palms of hands and feet that is characterised by blisters
  • Stasis dermatitis: irritation of the lower leg relating to circulatory problems
  • Nummular eczema: circular patches of skin that is scaly, itchy and crusted.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: oily, yellowish and scaly patches on the scalp and face.
  • Contact dermatitis: happens after a contact with a substance that is foreign to the immune system. 
  • Neurodermatitis: scaly patches on the head, wrists, lower legs and forearms and is caused by an insect bite.

The National Eczema Week this year (15-23 September) is held so as to urge everyone to act on eczema. This is a personal condition and the response of people varies to a great extent to triggers and treatments. Therefore, there is a need to try out new things before finding the regimen that is suitable.