What is atopic dermatitis (eczema)?

It is the most common chronic skin disease in children. It may also occur in any age group. It is characterized by periods of flares, when its symptoms getting worse, followed by periods of remissions, as the skin improves. Symptoms are often activated by irritating or allergic factors.

In most cases, eczema can often be accompanied by asthma or hay fever (Allergic rhinitis).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema) vary from one person to another and from one age group to another. They include:

  • Itching, which may be severe, particularly at night.
  • Rashes on hands, legs and body folds such as elbow and knee creases, and may spread in all the body.
  • Thickened, cracked, scaly skin.

Factors that may worsen the disease:

  1. Dry skin, which may result from bathing with hot water for long times.
  2. Itching, which increases the skin damage.
  3. Changes in air temperature such as extreme cold or extreme heat.
  4. Soap and detergents.
  5. Wool in clothes, bedspreads and carpets.
  6. Dust, pollen and tobacco smoke.
  7. Food allergies.
  8. Tension
  9. Sweating.

Causes of atopic dermatitis (eczema):

The underlying cause of eczema is currently unknown, but there are some factors that may be the cause of this disease, including:

  1. Genetic factors.
  2. When one of the first-degree relatives, such as parents and siblings, suffers the same disease, or suffers allergic rhinitis or asthma.

  3. Environmental factors.
  4. Not yet clear.

Diagnosis:

Eczema is diagnosed based on medical history and clinical examination. The patient is also examined for allergens, such as certain foods, in case his medical history indicates a possible food allergy.

Treatment:

There is no known cure for eczema, but there are preventive measures which depend on avoiding triggers and allergies, if any. This is along with paying much attention to skin moisture and some precautionary measures which can help control and ease flares.

Preventive measures:

  1. Paying attention to keeping the body moisturized, Vaseline is considered one of the best moisturizers.
  2. Avoiding hot showers and excessive use of soap and detergent.
  3. Moisturizing the body directly after showers while skin is still damp.
  4. Using cotton clothing and avoiding wool clothing.
  5. Avoiding stress and anxiety.
  6. Avoiding itching.
  7. Avoiding allergens.

Pharmacotherapy:

  1. Topical steroids creams:
  2. They help control and reduce itching and inflammation.

  3. Immunomodulator creams, such as Tacrolimus:
  4. They help control and reduce itching and inflammation

  5. Antihistamines:
  6. They may relieve itching and help affected child to sleep.

  7. In case of bacterial or viral infection along with eczema, they should be treated.