DEFINITION--A chronic inflammatory disease of the skin that is often associated
with other allergic disorders that affect the respiratory system, such as asthma or hay
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Skin.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Both sexes, but symptoms may be worse in females;
children most commonly affected.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Itching rash in areas where heat and moisture are retained, such as skin creases of
elbows, knees, neck, face, hands, feet, groin, genitals and around the anus.
- Dry, thickened skin in affected areas.
- Uncontrolled scratching (frequently unconscious).
- Chronic fatigue from loss of sleep due to severe itching.
CAUSES--Unknown, but probably inherited and probably related to immune-system
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Hay fever or asthma.
- Food allergy.
- Family history of atopic dermatitis or other allergic disorders.
- Stress. The rash and itching increase during stressful periods.
- Use of immunosuppressive drugs.
- Irritating clothes and chemicals.
- Excessively hot or cold climate.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Decrease stress if possible.
- Avoid agents that cause irritation (wool, perfumes, fabric softeners, harsh soaps,
- Minimize sweating.
- Lukewarm, not hot baths.
- Lubricate skin frequently.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Doctor's treatment with medication.
- Secondary bacterial infection in the affected area.
- Cataracts ( more common in people with atopic dermatitis).
- Decreased resistance to fungal and viral infections.
- Permanent scarring from scratching.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Unpredictable. Flare-ups and remissions may occur throughout
life. It does tend to decrease or sometimes disappear with age.
How To Treat
- Effective treatment involves eliminating allergens, avoiding irritants and other
precipitating factors and relieving itching and inflammation.
- Use cool-water soaks for crusting, oozing lesions. These decrease itching and remove
- Bathe in cool to warm water with cleansing agents other than soap.
- Keep fingernails short.
- Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing (avoid wool and synthetics).
- Avoid fabric softeners and anti-static laundry products.
- Use petroleum- or lanolin-based ointments after bathing.
- Reduce stress in your life, if possible.
- To relieve minor itching, use non-prescription topical steroids or coal-tar
- For severe itching, your doctor may prescribe: More potent topical steroids. Oral
cortisone drugs (rarely, and for short periods only). Antihistamines or mild
tranquilizers. Lubricating ointments for the hands. Antibiotics (sometimes) to fight
ACTIVITY--No restrictions except to keep cool. Avoid prolonged exposure to heat.
DIET--An allergy diet may be helpful, if food allergy is suspected. Consult your
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
- You develop fever or uncontrolled itching during a flare-up.