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Every year on September 14, World Atopic Eczema Day is observed around the world to spread awareness and improve understanding of Atopic Dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) also called eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes your skin to become red, scaly, and itchy that can easily crack. It’s mostly common in children but can occur at any age and affect males and females equally. Atopic dermatitis is a long-term (chronic) skin disorder, which tends to flare up.

Dr. Rohit Batra , Consultant Dermatologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, says, “The condition usually develops in early childhood and is more common in individuals with a family history. The main symptom is a rash that can appear anywhere on the body but in infants and children, typically it appears on the face, scalp, hand, and flexural areas. Whereas, in adolescents and adults, the rashes typically occur on the elbow, knee, face, neck, and in flexural areas.”

The exact cause of this disease is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors, both can contribute to Atopic Dermatitis (AD).

Dr Sanjeev Gupta, Professor and Head, Deptt of Dermatology, MM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Mullana, Ambala, believes, “Scratching the skin can lead to inflammation, make rashes ooze fluid or bleed, and can result in thickening and hardening of the skin. Severe itching and blisters make your skin prone to bacterial and viral infections.  The itching may be so intense that it can interfere with one’s ability to perform daily activities and can also lead to disturb sleep.”

Dr Batra adds, “Owing to the associated myths around Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema), people living with it often go through social ignorance due to which they isolate themselves which can have an adverse effect on mood, focus, behaviour and might increase an individual’s risk of depression or anxiety. But the fact is, AD is not contagious and it can’t be spread via touch or respiratory track. It is really important to create awareness about this non-contagious disorder which can happen to anyone”.

Dr Gupta suggests management options for patients suffering from Atopic Dermatitis:

  • Maintaining skin hydration: Hydrate your skin with moisturiser containing oatmeal, ceramide, at least 2-3 times a day
  • Avoid using excessive hot or cold water for bathing, use lukewarm water
  • Avoiding soap and other aggravating factors
  • Pat dry wet skin after bathing
  • Apply coconut oil or any moisturiser immediately after bath
  • Wear loose cotton clothes and avoid synthetic and tight fitting clothes
  • Always use mask if u have a history of allergic rhinitis or asthma
  • Keep your carpets clean and try to avoid contact with pets
  • Even if it can be challenging to refrain from scratching, it’s crucial to do so

Treatment  includes

Dr Batra says, “Sound sleep is a must for those suffering from Atopic Dermatitis. Severe itching due to Atopic dermatitis can lead to poor sleep. Therefore, medicines like antihistamines sedatives are suggested in such conditions”.

He further added, that according to the patient’s age, treatment is suggested to first treat the affected areas using topical steroids or creams.

Once the red, scaly areas are treated, further management is suggested that comprises non-steroid gels like Tacrolimus and Macrolides.

In a few cases of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, ultraviolet phototherapy can be considered a safe and effective treatment. But all these treatment modalities are to be taken after consultation with a qualified dermatologist.

Dr Gupta concludes, “Atopic Dermatitis is a treatable condition but avoiding treatment can make it worse.” The earlier we treat it, the better is the outcome on physical aspects and on the quality of life.

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