Health Tip #8: Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis most commonly refers to eczema. It is characterized by dry, itchy, inflamed skin that reacts to constant scratching by scaling and forming thick patches. Small blisters may also form that rupture, weep, and crust over. Flare-ups usually occur with heat, cold, and dry temperatures, and emotional stressors can also worsen it.
Eczema commonly manifests in infancy, but can remain a problem well into adulthood. Before 6 months of age, infants may develop dry, itchy, red skin or small bumps on their forehead, cheeks, or scalp. The rash can spread to the arms, legs, or trunk. Children with eczema usually experience slightly raised, itchy, and scaly areas of skin in the bends of the elbows, knees, or on the backs of the wrists and ankles. For some children, the condition may improve but then resurface during puberty, when hormones and stress become more of a factor. There is usually a family history of “atopy”, where an individual is sensitive to allergens in the environment or in certain foods. Other conditions associated with atopy include allergic rhinitis and asthma.
Eczema is different from other skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is more commonly known as cradle cap in babies or dandruff in adults. The skin typically appears greasy, flaky, or scaly. Psoriasis is characterized by scaly, red and inflamed skin patches. Contact dermatitis occurs when an individual comes into contact with an irritating substance, such as plants, metal, medicines, or soap.
The cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. Factors that may contribute to this condition include a deficiency of vitamins A, B3, B6, and E, essential fatty acids, and zinc. Various food sensitivities are also linked to the development of eczema. Once the trigger for the allergy has been identified, avoidance of this food for a period of time can lead to significant improvement of the skin. A few of the most common food sensitivities include wheat, dairy, eggs, and nuts. Elimination of food additives, refined sugars and excessive spices is also a good consideration. Allergy testing can also be helpful in trying to narrow down allergens that may be contributing to the skin condition. This may include taking blood or hair samples.
If you suffer from eczema, avoiding certain things may help alleviate symptoms, such as pollen, mold, dust, dry air, harsh detergents, wool clothing, alcohol, perfumes and dyes in skin care products, tobacco smoke, and excessive sweating. Also, try to drink 8 glasses of water, one every hour or so throughout the day, to keep your skin hydrated. The best thing to do is to consciously stop the tendency to itch the rash, which can prevent the condition from getting worse or lead to skin damage or infection. Other things that may help include moisturizing the effected area several times a day with a natural, chemical-free product, applying a cool compress on irritated areas, keeping your fingernails short to minimize any skin damage caused by scratching, using organic makeup, moisturizers and sunscreens, and learning stress reduction techniques.
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