Itchy, irritated skin is no fun to have. One common cause of this frustrating problem is a condition called atopic dermatitis, also referred to as eczema. This is a skin problem that usually starts early in life and may come and go over a lifetime. It can cause a variety of unpleasant signs and symptoms including cracked, scaling skin, bumps and severe itching. It can affect almost any area of the body, although the backs of the elbows and knees, hands, feet and neck are some of the most frequent areas affected. Even the face can be involved. Sometimes the cracks and fissures can become infected with bacteria or the areas scar from constant scratching. That’s why it’s important to treat the atopic dermatitis.
What Causes It?
No one knows the exact cause of this skin condition, but the immune system is almost certainly involved since many people with it also have allergies, hay fever or asthma. There is a genetic component since eczema runs in families. In addition, many people with atopic dermatitis or eczema have dry skin. Certain triggers seem to make the symptoms worse, and these triggers vary from person to person. Common ones include certain soaps and skin care products, stress, temperature changes, fabrics, foods, low humidity and anything that dries out the skin.
The first priority for treatment is to identify potential triggers and avoid them. It may help to keep a food diary to see if certain foods make the symptoms worse. It’s critical to avoid drying out skin affected by eczema. Use a cleanser and moisturizer that’s fragrance-free and formulated specifically for sensitive skin.
Most soaps are too harsh and drying for eczematous skin. Look for a cleanser that is formulated with natural oils and spring water to soothe and calm itchy, irritated skin. These products are made for people with eczema and other skin conditions where itching and dryness are a problem. Follow up by using a moisturizing Cream. Fragrance-free moisturizers replace lipids in the outer layer of the skin that are deficient in people with dry skin and eczema. This combination of products helps to reduce dryness, irritation and itching.
Some doctors recommend topical steroid creams or ointments to reduce the inflammation and itching of atopic dermatitis. These creams are safe for short-term use, but over the long term they can cause thinning of the outer layer of the skin and skin discoloration. Treating your face with a good moisturizing cream like Mustela Stelatopia Moisturizing Cream can reduce the need for steroid creams.
Some people with eczema have such severe itching that it’s difficult to sleep at night. Some doctors prescribe oral antihistamines for temporary itch relief. In severe cases, doctors sometimes prescribe oral steroid medications or medications that depress the immune system. These medications should only be used in cases where other treatments have failed because of the potential for serious side effects. It’s also important to watch for signs of infection from scratching since this may require antibiotic treatment.
If you take baths, don’t bathe in hot water since this can cause further dryness and irritation. Add a soothing and moisturizing treatment to your bath water to soften and protect dry, irritated skin from the drying effects of a bathtub soak. Many products are specially formulated for severely dry, irritated, cracked skin. Use them every time you bathe for additional protection. Always follow up with a fragrance-free moisturizing cream after a bath or shower.
The Bottom Line?
Atopic dermatitis is a challenging skin problem to deal with, but avoiding triggers and using the appropriate skin care products can make a big difference in how your skin looks and feels.