Eczema (Atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis)
Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is the most common form of eczema and one of the most common skin conditions. It is a condition that causes the skin to become dry, cracked, itchy, and red.
Atopic eczema often develops before a child’s first birthday and is more common in children, but can also develop for the first time in adults. It is a chronic (long-term) condition with no cure.
However, it can improve significantly or even clear completely in some children as they get older.
Dry, cracked skin
Itchy and red skin
- Usually, there are periods where symptoms are mild and improve, followed by ‘flare-ups’ where symptoms become more severe; ‘flare-ups’ can occur as frequently as two to three times a month
- Atopic eczema is most common on the hands (especially fingers), the insides of elbows, backs of the knees, and the face and scalp. However, atopic eczema can occur all over the body and can also cause rashes on the cheeks
- Additionally, ‘flare-ups’ of atopic eczema can also cause swelling, oozing, crusting, and skin thickening (lichenification)
- Areas of affected skin may temporarily turn lighter or darker after the condition has improved
- Small areas of dry skin
- Occasional itching
- Widespread red and inflamed skin all over the body and constant itching
- Persistent itchiness that causes scratching, bleeding, and secondary infections
- Disrupted sleep caused by a cycle of itching and regular scratching
- Frequent and severe ‘flare-ups’
Symptoms of infected eczema
Atopic eczema causes your skin to be itchy and cracked. Cracks in the skin and regular scratching can introduce bacteria into the affected area. Signs of an infection can include:
- Fluid oozing from the skin
- Symptoms (redness, itchiness, etc.) becoming noticeably worse
- Small yellow-white spots appearing in the eczema
- The yellow crust on the surface of the skin
- Swollen and sore skin
- High temperature (fever), flu-like symptoms or generally feeling unwell
When to call Ahmeys for medical advice
- If you think that your skin or your child’s skin may have become infected, call Ahmeys to make an appointment with an expert as soon as possible
- One of our experts will examine you. Usually, they will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and make sure that the skin inflammation that caused the infection is controlled and does not get worse
- Once your infection has cleared, an Ahmeys expert can prescribe you new ointments and creams to avoid contamination and re-introducing infection
Atopic eczema is usually caused by a combination of things. People who have atopic eczema often have skin that is unable to retain moisture. Dry skin may make the skin more likely to react to certain triggers and cause it to become itchy and red.
A person who has parents and or siblings with atopic eczema can have an increased likelihood of having it themselves.
Atopic eczema is not infectious and you cannot pass it on through close contact. Common eczema triggers are:
- Irritants (soaps and detergents, such as shampoo, bubble baths, and washing up liquid)
- Environmental factors (cold and dry weather, dry and dusty conditions, dampness, or excessively hot or cold conditions)
- Allergens (pet fur, pollen, dust, dust mites, and molds)
- Food allergies (lactose, eggs, peanuts, wheat or soy, etc.)
- Materials that are worn close to the skin (wool or synthetic fabrics)
- Hormones (some women may find their symptoms get worse during pregnancy or in the days before their period)
- Skin Infections
If you suspect that you may have atopic eczema, call and make an appointment with an expert at Ahmeys. One of our experts will examine your skin and review your medical history.
He or she may also use patch testing and additional tests to diagnose your eczema, rule out other possible skin diseases and identify any other conditions that may accompany your eczema.
There are several ways an expert at Ahmeys can determine the severity of your eczema.
A diagnosis can be made after an assessment of the severity of your skin’s redness, swelling, and the percentage of your body that is affected by atopic eczema.
One of our experts can also consider factors such as itchiness and lack of sleep to assess how much your quality of life is affected by your symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with atopic eczema, one of our experts can work with you to try and identify any triggers for your symptoms.
Once an expert at Ahmeys has diagnosed you with atopic eczema, he or she will then consider possible treatments and discuss them with you. The main treatments for atopic eczema are:
- Emollients (moisturisers used every day to stop the skin from becoming dry)
- Topical corticosteroids (ointments and creams used to reduce redness and swelling during ‘flare-ups’)
- Topical pimecrolimus or tacrolimus (for eczema in sensitive areas not responding to initial treatment)
- Antihistamines (to reduce swelling and help with severe itching)
- Bandages (to allow the body to heal and avoid infection in severe cases)
How to manage your eczema symptoms?
Following diagnosis, we recommend keeping regular contact with your Ahmeys specialist and following your prescribed treatment plan. In addition to using moisturizers and topical creams, there are things that you can do to help ease your symptoms:
- Use your prescribed emollients and or topical corticosteroids as instructed by your expert at Ahmeys
- Unless instructed otherwise by your Ahmeys expert, follow the directions on the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication
- Try to avoid or reduce scratching when possible
- If you feel the need to itch, try gently rubbing the skin with your fingers instead
- If your baby has atopic eczema, try using anti-scratch mittens to stop them from scratching their skin
- Keep your nails clean and short to avoid damage and reduce the risk of infection from scratching
- Once you have identified your eczema ‘triggers’ with an Ahmeys expert, try and take measures to avoid them. Avoid irritating fabrics, keep cool if heat aggravates your symptoms, and avoid using soaps or detergents that are likely to affect your skin
- Your Ahmeys expert can help you to realize if you have any food triggers. We advise you not to make any significant changes to your diet without speaking to an expert at Ahmeys first
- Cover your skin with light clothing to reduce damage from habitual scratching
- Wear loose, soft-textured clothing to avoid skin irritation