What triggers atopic dermatitis?

Understanding what causes eczema

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Atopic dermatitis commonly called inflammation or Eczema is a condition that causes your skin to be red and itchy. It’s common in children but can happen at any age. Atopic dermatitis is chronic and flares up periodically. No cure has been discovered for atopic dermatitis. But medications and self-care measures can relieve symptoms and prevent new outbreaks. For instance, it helps to avoid using harsh soaps, moisturizes regularly, and apply medicated creams or ointments.

What is atopic dermatitis and what triggers it?

A look into what could cause an eczema flare up

The phrase “eczema” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to boil over,” and the etymology is very spot-on. This group of skin conditions involving red, itchy, and swollen skin can become both uncomfortable and embarrassing, but they’re manageable most of the time, and flare-ups don’t occur often. The flare-ups may appear alike at first glance, but dermatologists actually treat six different varieties of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. In this article, we are looking at atopic dermatitis.Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a severe kind of eczema, which is an umbrella term used to define a group of skin conditions that cause itchiness, redness, and skin irritation. Atopic dermatitis falls into a category of disorders called atopic — meaning allergic reaction. It is a lifelong, inflammatory condition that causes red, itchy patches on the skin that can crack and ooze. It is diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist or an allergist.

What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?

Symptoms include dry, itchy skin that appears on the face, inside of elbows or behind the knees. However, AD can show up anywhere on the body. Skin can become scaly, bumpy and leathery, or broken, based on what part of the body is affected. People with AD are more prone to skin infections and herpes. When it develops on the eyelids or around the eyes, it can cause cataracts, skin darkening, and an extra folding of the skin under the eyes. Dry skin Itching may be severe, especially during the night causing red to brownish-gray patches, mostly on hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, knees and inside the bend of the elbows, to infants, the face and scalp get small raised bumps, which ooze fluid if scratched. Thick, scaly and cracked skin. Atopic dermatitis begins mostly before age 5 and may persist into adolescence and adulthood. To some people, it flares periodically then clears up for a time.

Who can get atopic dermatitis?

AD usually starts in childhood but can affect persons of all ages. Eczema patients often also get asthma or hay fever or are similar to someone with these allergic reactions. Children can grow out of AD; however, it can affect some throughout their lives.

What causes atopic dermatitis?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema. The most common type, atopic dermatitis resembles an allergic reaction. But the skin irritation, which is more present in children than adults, is not an allergic reaction. People with AD in their childhood may go on to develop asthma or hay fever.

Eczema triggers 

A trigger doesn’t cause eczema. But it causes it to flare or make a flare up worse. The most common triggers are substances that irritate the skin. For instance, many people with eczema, wearing clothes made of wool or human-made fibers can trigger a flare-up.

Skin Dryness

When the epidermis becomes dry, it can cause itchiness, and the itch-scratch cycle of AD is one of the processes that seem to extend or amplify the symptoms of AD. Scratching the patches of skin affected by the disease can cause wounds in the skin, which raise the risk of infection. Repeated scratching also causes spots of lichenification, or thickened skin that may have knots or be lighter or darker than surrounding skin.

Irritants

The skins natural barrier protection is damaged by AD, which can make the skin more susceptible when exposed to environmental contaminants. These substances are collectively called irritants due to their ability to irritate the surface. Various irritants can also cause redness, itchiness, or a burning sensation. Environmental irritants are different for each with AD but can also consist of some fabrics used in clothing, like wool, soaps or laundry detergents, cleaning solutions, dust, sand, smog, etc.

Stress

One environmental factor that contributes to the development of AD is emotional stress. One key attribute of AD is a dysfunction in the immune system, which causes chronic inflammation in the skin. Stress worsens the normal functioning of the immune system, creating a more inflammatory reaction. People with AD are prone to anxiety, making a higher amount of cortisol to be released in the body. Stress affects the skin barrier function negatively, which leads to more moisture loss and high susceptibility to infection.

Weather and climate conditions

The weather can aggravate AD, making some to name it winter eczema or seasonal dermatitis. Low humidity can worsen skin dryness. The harshness of the disease and the activity can be influenced by the climate and weather, at times with dramatic changes within a few days or weeks.

Infections

Infections by bacteria, virus, fungi can trigger AD. Over 90% of AD skin lesions have been found to contain the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staph), which produces toxins that aggravate AD. Another common infection that can trigger flare-ups of AD is herpes simplex virus (HSV). The malfunctioning of the immune system causes AD and also puts people with the condition at a higher chance for viral and fungal infections.

Allergens

Allergens are typical triggers for atopic dermatitis (AD) flare-ups. The allergens may differ depending on the individual, and not everyone with AD gets flare-ups due to allergens. Common allergens include certain foods, e.g. proteins, nuts pet dander, dust mites, molds, and pollen.

Sweat and excess saliva

Bodily fluids such as sweat or excess saliva can trigger AD. In infants, excess saliva produced especially during times of intense drooling like when they are teething can aggravate AD. In children and adults, excessive sweating can trigger AD. Thus it is crucial to have a skincare regimen that effectively handles sweat to decrease the risk of a flare-up of AD skin symptoms.

Hormonal fluctuations

In some women, hormone changes can trigger AD, causing a flare-up of symptoms or a worsening of their condition. Hormone fluctuations are usually experienced before and during menstruation, during pregnancy, after giving birth (postpartum), and at the transition to menopause (perimenopause).

Complications that can arise from AD

Complications of eczema include:

  • Asthma and hay fever. Inflammation at times precedes these conditions. By the age of 13 and a half young children with atopic dermatitis can develop asthma and hay fever.
  • Scaly chronic, itchy skin. A skin condition known as neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus) starts with a patch of itchy skin. This condition causes the affected section of episemis to discolor, get leathery and thick.
  • Skin infections.Scratching breaks the skin allowing bacteria in resulting in sores and cracks. It contributes to increased infection from bacteria, viruses, including the herpes simplex virus.
  • Irritant hand dermatitis.It mostly affects people whose work requires them to use harsh soaps, detergents, and disinfectants.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis. It’s familiar to people who experience atopic dermatitis.
  • Insomnia. The itch-scratch cycle can cause poor sleep quality.

When to see a doctor

  1. It’s uncomfortable that the condition affects sleep and daily activities
  2. If you have a skin infection always look for red streaks, pus, and yellow scabs.
  3. If you continue to experience symptoms after trying home remedies, Seek immediate medical attention if the rash looks infected and also if the child has a fever. 

Prevention of AD flares ups

  • This tips may help prevent bouts of dermatitis (flares) and reduce the drying effects of bathing minimally.
  • Moisturize your skin twice a day. Lotions, creams, and ointments lock in moisture. When you use petroleum jelly on your baby’s skin, this may help prevent atopic dermatitis from developing.
  • Sweat, obesity, stress, soaps, detergents, dust and pollen are things that worsen the skin condition.
  • Infants and children can get flares from consuming certain foods, like eggs, soy, wheat and milk. Talk to your pediatrician to identify potential allergies caused by foods.
  • Take shorter baths or showers, limiting them to 10 – 15-minutes using hot water.
  • A bleach bath is considered to help prevent flares by the American Academy of Dermatology. Bacteria on the skin and related infections are said to be decreased by a diluted-bleach bath. Put 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of household bleach, not concentrated, to a 40-gallon (151-liter) bathtub and fill it with warm water. Soak from the neck or the affected areas of skin for about 10 minutes. Take a bleach bath at most two times a week.
  • Use only gentle soaps. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps can remove more natural oils and dry your skin.
  • Dry yourself carefully after bathing by patting your skin dry with a soft towel and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp.