National Jewish Health pediatric Allergist Kanwaljit Brar, MD, describes atopic dermatitis or eczema and how it’s treated.
Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition.
That first word atopic, which means atopy and the tendency to develop allergies.
What that means is that inflamed skin is often driven by an allergic trigger.
The majority of people will develop it before 5 years of age and especially during the first year of life, but we do see adult onset eczema.
Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is characterized by skin that is dry but also appears inflamed.
So that the skin is red and can have other signs of inflammation such as oozing, crusting, thickening of the skin and we wouldn’t see that just with regular dry skin.
This can result in disturbed quality of sleep and can also result in other symptoms such as increased anxiety and depression.
Triggers can include environmental allergens and in a small percentage of patients, food allergens may also trigger atopic dermatitis.
This is more common in young children and not very common in adolescents and adults.
Treatment Options for Atopic Dermatitis
It’s really important to use a cream or ointment rather than lotion and use it once or twice daily.
Using daily moisturizer is the best way to prevent eczema flairs.
And then at the first sign of a flair, it’s really important to treat it appropriately with the topical anti-inflammatory prescribed by your doctor.
This includes topical corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors.
There are some new agents on the market as well for treatment of atopic dermatitis.
We often see patients using wet wrap therapies when they are more severe and just plain application of topical steroids doesn’t seem to be working.
Wet wrap therapy involves the patient taking a soaking bath for a good 15 to 20 minute soak.
After that bath, topical steroids are applied directly to inflamed areas of the skin.
After applying the topical steroids, a wet layer of clothing is applied, and above that wet layer of clothing, a dry layer of clothing.
Patients can grow out of having atopic dermatitis.
We’re not quite sure which patient will outgrow atopic dermatitis, it’s not quite clear who will and who won’t, but we do see that kids can out grow atopic dermatitis.
Visit njhealth.org/pediatric-eczema for more information.
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