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  Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disorder which is derived from two medical terms namely, “atopic” referring to diseases that are hereditary and tend to run in families which also include bronchial asthma, hay fever or allergic rhinitis and "dermatitis" which means inflammation of the skin. The skin in patients with atopic dermatitis becomes excessively itchy and inflamed and manifests as redness, swelling, cracking, weeping, crusting, and scaling.

Atopic dermatitis Allergies
Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis symptoms may differ from person to person. The most common symptoms are dryness and itchiness of the skin, cracks at the post-auricular area (behind the ears) and rashes distributed on the cheeks, arms (upper extremities), and legs (lower extremities). The itchiness felt by the patient is the most predominant symptom and this is a significant factor because further scratching and rubbing the affected area in response to itching may worsen the skin inflammation that is characteristic of this disease. Patients afflicted with atopic dermatitis tend to be more sensitive to itching and a feeling of an extreme need to scratch the area longer in response to the sensation felt is aggravating the condition. Hence, the development of the vicious cycle referred to as the "itch-scratch" cycle, causing the person to scratch, which in turn worsens the itch, and so on and so forth. Itching is especially more of a problem during sleeping time, when there is a decreasing conscious control of scratching and there is an absence of other external stimuli which makes the itchiness more noticeable.

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis remains to be unknown or idiopathic, but the disease seems to be a result of a combination of genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors.

Treatment needs to be a combined effort and cooperation between the doctor and the patient and his or her family members. The doctor will usually suggest a treatment plan based on the patient's age, symptoms, and general health condition. The success of the treatment plan customized for the patient lies not only to the patient himself but also the family members. Both parties play a crucial role in the goal of eventual cure of this skin condition. Majority of patients with atopic dermatitis can be successfully managed with proper skin care and lifestyle modifications and do not require the more intensive treatments as long as the doctor’s instructions are carefully followed.

Keeping the skin healthy and proper healing of the affected sites are both of primary importance in preventing further skin damage. Moreover, this will enhance the patient's quality of life. A daily skin care routine is likewise developed which is critical to prevent relapse of symptoms. Another important aspect in the treatment are proper bathing and the application of lubricants, such as creams (main ingredient is water) or ointments (main ingredient is oil), approximately within 3 minutes of bathing. Avoidance of long hot baths and showers (more than 10 to minutes) are advised to people with atopic dermatitis because it may further contribute to drying the skin and may worsen the itching. Instead, a lukewarm bath with limited usage of a mild bar soap is suggested to help cleanse and moisturize the skin without drying it excessively.

Some substances are known to be specifically irritating directly the skin especially when used in high concentrations and with prolonged skin contact, causing the skin to become red and itchy or to burn. These specific irritants can affect people with atopic dermatitis to varying degrees and therefore should be avoided. Some examples are: wool or synthetic fibers, dust or sand, rough or tightly fitted clothing that can rub the skin, soaps and detergents, perfumes, cosmetics and certain elements, such as chlorine, mineral oil, or solvents. Because irritants vary from one individual to another, each person has to determine for himself or herself what are those irritating substances or circumstances that cause the disease to flare up.

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