According to the National Eczema Association, atopic dermatitis (sometimes referred to as AD for short) affects over 9.6 million children and about 16.5 million adults in the U.S., making it the most common type of eczema.
That’s why when you think of eczema, you likely think of the atopic dermatitis form first.
When you’re suffering from atopic dermatitis, understanding what it is, what causes it, and how to treat AD are all important factors to managing flare-ups and feeling comfortable in your skin again.
So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about atopic eczema.
What Is Atopic Dermatitis?
Like contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema. People who also suffer from hay fever and/or asthma (or have a family history) are more likely to suffer from atopic dermatitis.
AD tends to begin in childhood and remain chronic. At some points, it may go away entirely and then return. However, for some, AD does clear!
Atopic dermatitis is often located in the creases of your elbows or knees but can be found anywhere. It shows up as itchy, scaly, dry skin. These inflamed red patches of skin are often described as leathery in appearance and texture — especially when the skin becomes thick and hardened.
This process of hardening and thickening skin is referred to as lichenification, and aside from skin infection, it’s another reason it’s important to avoid scratching your AD rash.
What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?
Unfortunately, the exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. Most people with AD have higher levels of inflammation in the body from an overactive immune system. Staph A. bacteria (scientifically known as Staphylococcus aureus) may be a trigger for the overreaction of the immune system.
Doctors and researchers used to view an overgrowth of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in the skin microbiome as a symptom of eczema. They attributed it to a result of excessive scratching and lesions in the skin. Now, that’s all changing, and staph A. is thought to be the actual trigger of eczema rather than a byproduct.
Studies also show that some people with atopic dermatitis have a mutation of the gene that creates filaggrin, the protein that forms the top protective layer of skin.
So, the exact cause remains a mystery, but researchers have a firm grasp of the multiple factors contributing to this itchy skin condition.
How to Treat Atopic Dermatitis
Treatment of atopic dermatitis focuses on managing flare-ups. How long an AD flare-up lasts depends on how quickly you can identify triggers, how well the skin’s moisturized, and what’s happening on and below the skin that’s contributing to your eczema.
Here are six ways to manage your AD symptoms and flare-ups — so you can get back to glad skin:
1. Re-evaluate Your Skin Care & Hygiene Routine
Avoiding hot water, long showers, excess handwashing, as well as harsh soaps, laundry detergents, and cosmetics may improve your atopic dermatitis.
These all have the ability to throw your skin microbiome off balance and break down the natural skin barrier.
To help protect that barrier, it’s important to also moisturize daily, especially after washing your hands and showering.
2. Manage Stress
Have you ever heard of stress eczema? Increased cortisol in response to stress can cause eczema, including AD, flare-ups. Finding time to relax and practice self-care is not only healthy for your overall wellbeing, but it may even help you find a breakthrough for your atopic eczema!
Managing stress looks different for everyone. Some practices you may find helpful include: journaling, exercising, talking to a counselor, or spending time with loved ones.
Regardless, practice activities that make you feel relaxed and comfortable!
3. Balance the Skin Microbiome
The market is saturated with hundreds of different eczema creams and lotions to help bring moisture back to the skin, but what most eczema treatments fail to address is the imbalance of the skin microbiome and the presence of Staphylococcus aureus (or staph A.) bacteria.
Gladskin Eczema Cream uses Micreobalance® (a patented smart protein) that works with your skin — instead of against it — to restore balance to the skin microbiome gently and effectively while moisturizing at the same time. It’s formulated without any resistance-causing or harsh ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Gladskin Eczema Cream is free of steroids, fragrances, drying alcohols, preservatives, parabens, and sulfates. It’s clinically tested and safely formulated for anyone three months and up.
That means you can treat your eczema without any “buts.” Just results.
In fact, four out of five users experience reduced itch and redness associated with eczema. You can too…Learn more.
4. Consider Phototherapy
Some eczema sufferers have found success with phototherapy treatment for their AD. According to research, ultraviolet, or UV, lights can effectively help lower inflammation in the body.
Researchers believe both adolescents and adults may benefit from phototherapy treatment in addition to topical treatment. However, it can take one to two months to start seeing results.
5. Avoid Triggers
Irritation from detergents, bleach, or other household cleaners, airborne allergens, dust mites, hormonal changes, stress, certain foods... including food allergies, extreme weather climates, and so much more can trigger atopic dermatitis.
Avoiding these environmental factors and irritants likely won’t cause your AD to go away completely, but identifying and minimizing contact with AD triggers should help lessen flare-ups and make management of atopic dermatitis easier for you!
6. Consult Your Dermatologist
If your rash worsens or doesn’t go away with at-home treatment, contact your dermatologist or primary healthcare provider.
By evaluating the condition of your skin, your dermatologist can recommend a personalized treatment plan to help you heal.
For severe atopic dermatitis, your dermatologist may recommend the use of:
- A topical corticosteroid
- A calcineurin inhibitor like pimecrolimus
- Antihistamines to help with the itch and reduce scratching that can make the skin condition worse
If you’re considering corticosteroids, remember the possible effects of steroids, including topical steroid withdrawal, and their ability to throw your skin microbiome off balance.
Regardless of what treatment you choose, the best thing you can do for the health of your skin is know the benefits and the possible side effects of each treatment option.
Atopic dermatitis can have a dramatic effect on your quality of life. Dryness and itchiness can affect your sleep, mental health, self-esteem, ability to focus, and so much more.
Identifying your potential AD triggers, keeping your skin well-moisturized with gentle, clean moisturizers, and rebalancing your skin microbiome can help you stop the itch and slow atopic dermatitis flare-ups.