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The What, Why, and How of Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as atopic eczema or simply, eczema, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by red, swollen, cracked, and dry skin. While the disease can affect the whole body, its symptoms are more pronounced on legs, arms, neck, and face (cheeks in particular). The axillary and groin areas of the body, however, typically remain unaffected.

Although anyone can develop the disease at any stage, it’s more common in children.

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is not known. However, researchers believe that it could potentially be the result of a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. There is also evidence that this skin disease can be associated with some other health conditions, like asthma, hay fever, and even seasonal allergies. According to researchers, there may also be a connection between atopic dermatitis and filaggrin – a skin protein that is believed to play an important role in maintaining the skin’s natural moisture (formally called cutaneous hydration). This natural moisture helps protect the skin from various allergens, bacteria, and irritants.

Researchers have found that many people with atopic dermatitis either do not have enough filaggrin in the skin or have a defective form of it.

Some research studies have also identified mild immune system weakness in some people with this skin condition. However, the results of these studies are far from being conclusive, and a lot more research is required before this finding can be established.

What Are The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Atopic Dermatitis?

The signs and symptoms of topic dermatitis can vary across patients. However, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Red or brownish patches of skin on different parts of the body

  • Skin dryness

  • Itchiness, it can get worse at night

  • Thickened, scaly, and cracked skin

  • Tiny, raised bumps which may be filled with fluid

  • Swollen and sensitive skin; due to scratching

People with atopic dermatitis also experience flare-ups (the frequency of flare-ups can vary though).

What Can Cause Atopic Dermatitis to Flare?

There are several triggering factors that can flare atopic dermatitis, and they can vary across patients. Some of the most commonly identified triggering factors include:

  • Dry skin

  • Extreme temperatures (hot or cold)

  • Certain chemicals, found in daily use products

  • Environmental allergens, such as mold, mites, pet dander, or even dust

  • Certain bacterial, viral, and/or fungal infections, like herpes and staph

  • Hormonal fluctuations (more common among women)

  • Stress

How is Atopic Dermatitis Treated?

Since we do not know what exactly causes atopic dermatitis, we do not have a cure for it either (yet). Treatments for this skin condition involve reducing and easing symptoms and preventing flare-ups.

Emollients and corticosteroid creams are the most commonly prescribed medications for atopic dermatitis. They not only prevent the skin from getting dry (which can cause flare-ups), but also provides relief from itchiness. Corticosteroid creams can also help heal and repair the damaged skin.

Some patients (typically those with severe atopic dermatitis) may also be prescribed oral corticosteroids to reduce skin inflammation.

Although both these lines of treatment are quite effective in providing symptomatic relief, they have their fair share of downsides too. For example, the overuse of topical medicinal formulations can cause thinning of the skin. The long-term use of oral corticosteroids is also avoided because of their potential for causing a range of serious side effects.

Get in touch with Wellness Clinical Research to find out if there are clinical trials going on for finding newer treatments for atopic dermatitis. We can also help you participate in a trial if you want to gain access to those new treatment methods before others.

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