27 November is World Atopic Dermatitis Day, dedicated to a skin disease that affects more and more people worldwide every day.
Also known as atopic eczema, this chronic inflammatory skin disease affects adults and children. It appears during the first few years of life and its evolution varies.
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis are red or brown patches, dry, cracked or scaly skin, recurrent flare-ups of the eczema and, worst of all, intense itching, particularly at night. In babies, eczema normally shows itself as small swollen areas on the cheeks.
What causes it? No one knows exactly, though it’s usually more frequent in people whose parents also have it. Flare-ups can also be triggered by the cold, using synthetic fabrics, sharp temperature changes, aggressive detergents, dust and spending a long time in the bath.
Good personal hygiene stops the skin from being contaminated with bacteria, but baths should be short, with warm (not hot) water, and you should use mild soap for atopic skin. Once finished, dry yourself off, but without rubbing.
Are creams good or bad? It’s very important to keep your skin well hydrated when it’s healthy. But if you have a flare-up, it has to be treated. That means, when you get a flare-up, you shouldn’t apply moisturising creams, but you should apply creams to treat it (normally, corticosteroids).
Despite that, you have to think beyond treatment and work to prevent flare-ups. That’s why it’s so important to know if you have this disease. People often confuse it with dry skin, which complicates subsequent treatment, once the disease has progressed. Like most diseases, early diagnosis is fundamental.
To finish with some good news: proper treatment can control the disease, and increase the patient’s quality of life to 100%.
So, as you’re well aware, if in doubt, go to the doctor. As they always say: “prevention is better than cure!”