Atopic eczema is the most common form of eczema, especially amongst the young. Although it is considered a very individual condition with each individual having different triggers and presenting slightly differently there are still the basic features that distinguish it from other conditions.
The itch and the classical red, scaly, crusted or blistered rash must be present for eczema to be diagnosed. The symptoms must last for a long period of time or must reappear frequently. There is also usually a close family member who is atopic.
The diagnosis also depends on the location of the rash which needs to by typical for the age. Infants will usually experience eczema on their scalp, cheeks, elbows and knees. Small infants don’t scratch so rubbing against other surfaces like their bedding will irritate the areas affected.
Toddlers most commonly develop eczema in skin folds – like the elbows and behind the knees but can develop it anywhere as they are now able to scratch. Atopic eczema in adults is rare as the other forms of allergy (asthma, or hayfever) are more common. If eczema does occur in adults it is most likely to appear on the hands or feet.
What to do if you are atopic
The reason for atopic people having atopic skin is not known and similarly a cure for atopy is not known. Current treatments are aimed at relieving and controlling the symptoms.
Until recently the doctors preferred form of treatment for atopic eczema was steroid based creams. New creams are always appearing on the market and a trend towards the natural treatments that have lesser side effects than the steroids has eventuated.
Whilst using the emolients to treat the eczema is important it is not the sole form of treatment. It is very important to keep the skin well moisturised and to avoid any known triggers.
Tips for treating eczema
• Avoid triggers and substances that stress the skin. Besides individual triggers that you most probably have identified, some things to avoid include household cleaners, detergents and harsh soaps.
• Hot water is a NO NO. Take short, warm showers and baths and wear gloves if your hands will be in water for long periods of time. Add a bath oil to bath water to allow bathing to moisturise the skin rather than dry it out.
• Wear light, loose fitting clothes made from natural fibres that allow the skin to breathe. Cotton clothes are your best bet.
• Be dedicated to your skin care. Keep it clean, moisturised and avoid products that dry out and irritate the skin.
• Do your research, and find a topical treatment (cream applied to the skin) that works best for you. Unfortunately it is an arduous process of trial and error, but there are a lot of good products out there that might help soothe the skin.
• Try not to scratch the itch. Easier said than done I know, but scratching the skin can make it more difficult to heal because you break the skin, causing infection to set in.