Most people believe that atopic dermatitis is a rash, when it is actually an itch that when scratched or rubbed against causes a rash. If the itching can be prevented or properly controlled the likelihood and severity of a flare up can be managed. Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a widespread, persistent disease of the skin.
While there currently is no cure it is completely manageable. Simply put dermatitis means a skin inflammation and atopic refers to the genetic component of the disease. The hallmarks of the disease are dry, itchy skin with red, inflamed, swollen areas that can be cracked and crusty.
It can be diagnosed at any time but the largest numbers of diagnoses are given to children under the age of two. Most of the time atopic dermatitis reveals itself through flare ups that are then followed by times of remission.
Even during times that there is not a visible rash, the skin is still extremely dry and requires special care because it is easily irritated. While it is estimated that 20 percent of children are diagnosed, less than half that amount still suffers from atopic dermatitis when they reach adolescents but most always continue to battle issues with dry skin.
The causes for atopic dermatitis are still being debated but all who research the subject agree that there is a genetic factor. Some believe there is a genetic disposition to a weakened immune system where the weak immune system makes the skin unable to fight off irritants.
Then there are those that believe that it is a hereditable defect in the top layer of skin that causes the skin to absorb more allergens and pollutants as well as have less natural moister and unbalanced pH levels.
Last, there is what some researchers call the allergy gene that causes carries to have a genetic predisposition to atopic dermatitis as well as hay fever, seasonal allergies, asthma or any combination of the four. Since no one theory has been proven to cause all cases of atopic dermatitis, it is possible that one or more of them may be the cause.
There are several external and environmental factors that can cause or increase the severity of a flare up. Allergies and pollutants in detergents aggravate the skin causing flare ups and exasperating current ones. Soaps or skin products dry skin out. Bathing habits, how frequent and how hot of water is used also can cause dry skin. While exposure to cold weather and lack of moisture are also contributing factors. Dry skin can increase the itchiness and there for increase scratching that leads to inflammation.