Eczema is the common term used to describe atopic dermatitis. The cause of atomic dermatitis is complex and includes a variety of genetic and environmental influences. It is characterised by a defective skin barrier and immunological response that leads to redness, itch, regional rashes, sometimes weeping or may blister. Chronic scratching can lead to thickening of the skin. The skin tends to be drier than normal and is more prone to irritant reactions to soaps or other topical preparations. It is more prevalent in children and there is almost always a family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever.
In babies they often get redness and rashes on their cheeks. As the toddler gets older, the lesions become thickened and weepy as they scratch vigorously. The affected areas may be over the elbow joint and behind the knees, in the creases of skin. In severe cases a secondary infection can develop. In adults, the affected skin could be any of this but also could be just dry skin that is itchy. As the skin barrier is defective in atopic dermatitis, it is more prone to developing irritant contact dermatitis. This can occur just in the hands or other locations depending on the region of soaps, creams or solvents applied to the skin.
Eczema may improve as the child grows into teenage years or it may persist into adulthood
This nearly always involves avoidance of any know irritant triggers and addressing the defective skin barrier and sometimes suppressing the immune system response in severe cases. Sometimes phototherapy may be used. Antibiotics may be important when severe cases have developed a secondary infection. Even in severe cases, the importance of a good skin care routine is vital, as this may avoid the necessity for immunosuppressive medications.
With proper diagnosis and treatment advice from your dermatologist, together with dedication to the proper skin care routine, atopic eczema can be managed very well.