What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes severe itching. It usually starts in childhood. It is called “atopic” because it does not affect a specific area, but can affect different parts of the body.
Prognosis of the disease
It is a disease that tends to be chronic: by treating it properly, the symptoms can be kept under control, but sometimes it never resolves completely. However, in some cases the pathology disappears during adolescence.
In cases where the disease continues to be present even into adulthood (i.e. if it becomes chronic), its manifestations usually become more severe over time.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis
At the time of the onset of dermatitis, the child may experience the following symptoms:
- dry skin;
- presence of erythema, vesicles, crusts and eczema.
When the disease becomes chronic in adulthood, the symptoms become more intrusive; in addition to those mentioned above, one can add:
- thickening of the skin;
- appearance of papules;
- very intense itching;
- fissures with presence of blood;
- Sensitivity to skin infections due to the presence of eczema, which favors the growth of bacteria.
Atopic dermatitis usually manifests from infancy.
Diagnosis of atopic dermatitis
The dermatologist analyzes the lesions in the following ways:
- an objective first visit;
- patch test (some allergenic substances are applied to the skin);
- biopsy (rarely, to exclude serious pathologies related to atopic dermatitis);
- doses of type E and specific immunoglobulins;
- skin prick test;
- diagnostic tests for respiratory disorders such as asthma, rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis, which can affect the development of atopic dermatitis.
What are the causes of atopic dermatitis?
It is a multifactorial disease, i.e. caused by several factors at the same time. The most common causes may be:
- genetic predisposition;
- alterations in the activity of the enzymes that protect the skin by preserving the skin’s hydrolipidic film;
- exposure to allergens or irritating substances;
Can it be prevented?
It is difficult to prevent the onset of dermatitis, but it is possible to avoid its chronicity (almost exclusively during childhood) or to reduce its symptoms (during any stage of the disease, therefore also in adulthood) by following a few precautions:
- choosing delicate cleansing products for skin care;
- wear clothes made of cotton, linen or other natural fibers, preferably loose-fitting;
- be very careful when choosing cosmetic products and make-up (without fragrances and allergens).
Treatments for atopic dermatitis
The dermatologist may prescribe the following treatments:
- topical corticosteroid-based cream medications;
- emollient cream to apply on skin lesions already in progress;
- antihistamines, antibiotics or antiviral medications;
- phototherapy (when recommended).
As specified, very often these treatments will help to reduce the symptoms, but adult patients in whom atopic dermatitis has become chronic will hardly be able to heal completely.
Which specialist should be consulted?
It is necessary to consult a dermatologist to accompany you through all stages of diagnosis and treatment of the disease.