Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an itchy skin condition that starts in infancy. Although the medical community is not yet sure of its exact cause, we know that with age, especially as one goes through puberty, it gets better. AD appears as an itchy red and dry rash initially and progresses to thick skin with accentuated skin markings.
There is a strong genetic link to AD, which results in abnormalities of ceramide production. Ceramides are the natural fats (lipids) of the skin.
In addition to the itching, dry skin and redness, AD patients are at risk for certain other conditions such as:
1. Viral infections (eczema herpeticum) – infection of the skin with herpes simplex infection. This can cause the skin to become covered in blisters and painful. Anti-viral medicines can help treat this condition rather rapidly.
2. Bacterial infections- bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenesis can cause impetigo
3. Hives (urticaria) and even acute anaphylactic reactions to foods such as peanuts, eggs, milk, soya, fish, and seafood
4. Latex allergy
5. Atopic dermatitis can be part of the genetic triad of asthma and nasal allergies.
Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis (AD):
Moisturization is key!
- Wash in lukewarm water; avoid hot baths that dry the skin further. Avoid harsh soaps and cleansers.
- Immediately after the shower, moisturize the skin while still damp, using a gentle moisturizer. Products that contain ceramide can be especially helpful.
- Cortisones help reduce the inflammation in AD. If the AD flare up is strong, we may use the oral form of cortisone, or prednisone, short term to cool the skin down. Cortisones can be used in a topical form such as ointments, foams, gels or creams to also cool the skin. At the same time, it is important not to use too much cortisone, since it can dry out your skin in the long run.
- Cortisones should be used cautiously and in conjunction with gentle emolliation for short term use, or as needed for flares.
Other considerations for sufferers of AD:
Vitamin D has shown to be effective in controlling AD, as are probiotics.
Natural fabrics such as cotton can also minimize irritation.
Avoid products with perfumes or harsh chemicals, alcohols and irritants.
Each flare may need medical attention to treat not only the inflammatory portion but also any infections.