What Is Atopic Dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, a skin condition that makes you itch and leaves red blotches, usually on your face, arms, and legs. While it happens most often in children, it also affects an estimated 18 million adults. The rashes tend to flare and go away, but then come back again.
Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms
Most people will have their first signs of eczema before they’re 5 years old. Infants may have red, crusted, scaly areas on their cheeks, scalp, or the front of their arms and legs.
Children and adults usually have very itchy, red rashes on the back of the neck and knees and in elbow creases. You may also have small bumps and flaky skin. The rash may also develop on the face, wrists, and forearms.
If you scratch, your skin can get thick, dark, and scarred. Itchiness is usually worse at night when you go to bed.
Scratching can also lead to infection. You'll notice red bumps that hurt and can be filled with pus. Be sure to see your doctor if this happens.
Other symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
- Scaly, dry skin
- Rash that bubbles up, then weeps clear fluid
- Cracked skin that hurts and sometimes bleeds
- Skin creasing on the palms of the hand or under the eye
Atopic Dermatitis Triggers
Your skin might be fine for a long time. But then something happens to cause a rash or itchiness. Some things that trigger atopic dermatitis or make it worse include:
- Strong soaps and detergents
- Some fabrics, like wool or scratchy materials
- Perfumes, skin care products, and makeup
- Pollen and mold
- Animal dander
- Tobacco smoke
- Stress and anger
- Dry winter air/low humidity
- Long or hot showers/baths
- Dry skin
- Skin infections or especially dry skin
- Certain hormones
- Dust or sand
- Certain foods (usually eggs, dairy products, wheat, soy, and nuts(
Atopic Dermatitis Prevention
After a flare-up, you can do things to keep your skin healthy and make another one less likely.
Avoid triggers. Figure out what causes your skin problems and try to avoid those triggers. For example, if certain soaps or fabrics seem to cause rashes, stop using them. Try to avoid cigarette smoke, animal dander, and pollen if those seem to make your skin worse.
Take care of your skin. It's key to keep your skin moisturized. The best choices are thick creams or ointments that have little water. Put them on as soon as you get out of the shower or bath while your skin is still wet.
Take shorter showers and baths. Limit your showers to 10 minutes, and use warm water instead of hot. After your bath, pat your skin dry with a towel then moisturize right away. An occasional bath with a small amount of household bleach also may help. Use only about a half-cup of bleach for a 40-gallon tub. Never duck your head under the water, and don’t take a bleach bath more than twice a week.
Use gentle soaps. Use only mild soaps on your skin. Deodorant or antibacterial soaps have ingredients that can dry it out.
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