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Atopic eczema (infantile eczema, atopic dermatitis): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About atopic eczema (infantile eczema, atopic dermatitis)

Atopic eczema is a common allergic condition of the skin characterised by intermittent flare ups of skin inflammation in response to some triggering agents. It is termed as infantile eczema when seen in children of less than one year of age.

Atopic eczema (infantile eczema, atopic dermatitis): Incidence, age and sex

Atopic eczema is a common skin affliction occurring in infants and small children. Its onset usually occurs before the age of five years and it is quite uncommon for an adult to be suddenly affected with this skin disorder without any history in childhood. The incidence of atopic eczema has been on the rise in recent times.

Signs and symptoms of atopic eczema (infantile eczema, atopic dermatitis): Diagnosis

Atopic eczema presents with rashes and redness of skin which may cause itching. Sometimes, an individual may experience itching before the initiation of the rash. Constant scratching can lead to thickening of the skin. In occasional instances, cracking of the skin with oozing may be seen especially in infants. The face and head are the most common sites affected in younger children and infants. Adolescents may experience these skin symptoms mainly on the wrist, elbow or back of knee.

Atopic eczema typically occurs in periodic episodes of remissions and relapses. It is not an infectious disease and cannot be transmitted from person to person. The initial appearance of this condition is seen in childhood and its progress may vary with age. In most instances, flare-ups of skin inflammation reduce as a child grows up and may disappear altogether by adulthood. It may be associated with other allergic conditions like allergic rhinitis or bronchial asthma.

Some measures like keeping skin well-moisturized, avoiding the above mentioned and other triggering agents, wearing loose, cotton clothing may help in preventing frequent eruptions of the disease.

Causes and prevention of atopic eczema (infantile eczema, atopic dermatitis)

The exact cause of atopic eczema is not clear. Genetic factors may play a role in causing atopic eczema. It can be inherited from parents with atopic eczema or other allergic diseases. Persistently dry skin may increase the chances of flare ups of atopic eczema in susceptible individuals. Some triggering agents which may lead to exacerbations are emotional stress and extreme conditions of weather especially heat. Allergens like house dust, pollens, fragrant cosmetics or food products like eggs and fish may also cause flare ups of this skin disorder.

Atopic eczema (Infantile eczema, Atopic dermatitis): Complications

The skin may become dark and thick (lichenification) due to excessive scratching over skin rashes. This change of skin colour and texture may be irreversible. Occasionally these allergic skin rashes may be superimposed with bacterial infections.

Atopic eczema (Infantile eczema, Atopic dermatitis): Treatment

The consulting skin specialist may prescribe topical medications like steroid ointment or cream which usually diminish the inflammatory skin symptoms. Sometimes anti-allergic medications like anti-histamines may also be effective. Oral steroid drugs are reserved for severe skin affliction which does not improve with topical treatment. Secondary bacterial infection may require antibiotic drugs for effective elimination of the disease. Apart from the treatment, self care or preventive measures also contributes in reducing the relapses of atopic eczema.