Atopic dermatitis or eczema is characterized as a chronic, recurrent skin condition that typically occurs during infancy and early childhood but can persist or start during adulthood. Similar to other allergies and asthma, eczema has a tendency to run in families.
It is vital to bear in mind that eczema is not an itchy rash. Instead, it is usually an itch that results to a rash once scratched. If the itching can be controlled in which the individual does not scratch the area, there are no skin rashes that will manifest.
The skin condition is quite common in childhood and can affect up to 20% of children, usually before 5 years old. The diseases among adults only occurs to 1-3% of the population but can start at any age. It is uncommon to see eczema to develop among adults over 50 years old.
Generally, once eczema develops in infants, it is usually severe but most cases resolve or improve later in childhood. Children who develop the skin condition are more likely to end up with other allergic disease such as asthma and allergic rhinitis.
How eczema is diagnosed
A diagnosis of the skin condition is made based on the history of the symptoms and the physical exam by the doctor. Even today, there is no laboratory test that can be used to diagnose the skin condition.
Areas prone to eczema
The location where eczema develops usually depends on the area that is being scratched. Among infants and young children, the rash involves the face, trunk, chest and back of the scalp and might even involve the legs and arms. The distribution reflects where the child was able to scratch and usually the diaper area is spared.
Among children and adults, the location of the rash changes to involve the skin in the front part of the elbows and behind the knees. It can also affect the face and might be limited to the soles of the feet and palms of the hands in some individuals.
What are the potential triggers?
Skin itchiness can be triggered by infections, exposure to irritants, stress and allergies. The irritants cause itchiness via direct stimulation of the skin which includes chemicals, harsh soaps, heat, wool fabrics and even sweating. It is vital to avoid these irritants by using mild soaps, using cotton-based clothing and staying dry and cool to prevent itchiness.
Those who have eczema are prone to skin infections by fungal, bacterial and viral infections. Staphylococcus aureus is the usual bacterium that can aggravate the itchiness and eczema.
Even allergies are considered as main triggers for itchiness among those who have eczema. The usual allergens that come in contact with the skin such as dust mites and animal dander can cause most issues although mold and pollen present in the air can also worsen the issue.