Atopic Dermatitis

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Definition

Atopic dermatitis which is also called eczema, is a skin condition commonly seen in people with allergies.  Atopic dermatitis appears to be the name used to cover a large number of different skin conditions.  Diagnosis is difficult and generally based upon visible symptoms and medical history of allergies.  Symptoms range from dry scaly skin, to red weepy lesions. It can be found anywhere on the body but tends to appear in clusters on the scalp, elbows, hands arms legs and feet. Ringworm, which is a fungal infection, can be mistaken for eczema and it is important to get a correct diagnosis as treatment for eczema will make ring worm worse.  Unlike atopic dermatitis ringworm is highly contagious.  Several other skin disorders look similar to atopic dermatitis and require a doctor’s examination as well as a possible biopsy to determine the causes.

Symptoms

The symptoms of atopic dermitis are all skin related with lesions in a variety of types. On the scalp they can be scaly and when disturbed they weep fluid.  They can be large or small patches of dry scaly skin with raised bumps or areas of crusty thickened skin with or without discoloration.  They are called atopic referring to the probability of their being related to other allergies.  Wherever they are on the body the can be itchy and scratching them can make matters worse.

Treatment

After determining that the skin rash is actually atopic dermatitis, there are a variety of treatments based upon the presentation of the lesions.  Dry skin can make matters worse so skin care is an important factor in treatment considerations.  It is a good idea to take fewer showers or baths allowing natural oils to build up between washings.  Showers and baths should be of short duration and the temperature of the water should be moderate and not too hot.  Using gentle or hypoallergenic soap is also important.  In addition, using a high quality lotion or oil on slightly damp skin as soon as getting out of the tub helps keep skin supple and hydrated.  If you live in an area with very low humidity using humidifiers helps with skin care as well.

If the lesions are wet or weepy then treatment might consist of a cream or lotion to help dry out the area.  There might be a topical steroid cream used to help reduce itching and weeping.  Use topical steroid with care as they can thin the skin with long term use. Some atopic dermatitis responds to light therapy or light therapy in combination with specific skin creams. 

In the area of alternative treatments some medical professionals are noticing a relationship between liver function and skin disorders.  This makes sense since the skin is that largest non-vital organ of the body and is as active in the processes of detoxifying the system as is the liver and the kidneys.  There is research being conducted as to the usefulness of liver support and regular systemic detoxification.  Certain herbal remedies have shown usefulness in treating atopic dermatitis, lotions with calendula, chamomile, aloe vera and tea tree oil can be soothing to affected areas as well.

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