Eczema that occurs chronically may be more than just a skin condition. It could be a disease called atopic dermatitis.
The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, a chronic disease. If you struggle with frequent flare-ups that just keep coming back, there may be a bigger story happening inside your body.
With atopic dermatitis, even when your skin looks clear, the inflammation may still be active under the surface, and your next flare-up is just waiting to return. Some people always show signs of the disease.
The most obvious sign of atopic dermatitis is dry, itchy skin. Flare-ups are different for every person and can appear all over the body. Some other common external symptoms include:
But the rashes on the surface are only part of the story. The impact can go deeper than the skin, in fact the majority of people with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis report that itch can delay falling asleep and occasionally or frequently wakes them up at night. To really understand atopic dermatitis, you have to look at the deeper cause within your body.
Atopic dermatitis is an immunological disease, which means it involves the immune system. With atopic dermatitis, your immune system is highly sensitive and can react to even the smallest allergens or irritants. This reaction can cause excess inflammation underneath your skin, which may lead to your frequent flare-ups. So those rashes you see on the surface are just the visible signs of a deeper inflammatory disease.
In people with atopic dermatitis, immune cells in the deeper layers of your skin send inflammatory signals to the surface, causing the itchy rash you’re all too familiar with.
When you scratch, you can break down the outer layer of skin which allows germs, viruses and allergens to get in.
The more you scratch, the more your skin barrier breaks down, and the itch-scratch cycle continues.
In response to these invaders, your immune system continues to send signals to the surface, causing even more redness and itching.
Eczema is only skin-deep.
False: Eczema is a broad term for a number of different skin problems. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. While the focus may be on the itchy, red burning rash on top of your skin, a bigger story is happening inside your body. Understanding a root cause of atopic dermatitis may help you discover additional ways to manage the disease and reduce the number of flare-ups.
Eczema and atopic dermatitis are the same thing.
False: Atopic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema, which, in some cases, may be severe. Many people assume their atopic dermatitis is only a skin condition and only need to treat the obvious signs and symptoms. What they may not realize is that they have an immunological disease that originates within the body.
I only need to concentrate on preventing flare-ups of my atopic dermatitis.
False: If atopic dermatitis is only addressed during a flare-up, you still might not be treating some of the underlying factors that cause the flare-up in the first place.
When my skin is clear, my atopic dermatitis is gone.
False: Atopic dermatitis is an ever-present disease whose symptoms are treated at the surface but whose cause — inflammation — remains underneath. So, even when skin is clear and looks rash-free, the underlying inflammation may still be active and waiting to return.
Atopic dermatitis can be triggered by allergens.
True: Allergens are substances from food, plants, animals or even the air that inflame the skin by causing your immune system to overreact. Inflammation can occur even from a small amount of an irritating substance — whether it’s a dietary allergen like milk or peanuts or an airborne substance like mold, pollen or animal dander.
Changing my diet could help my atopic dermatitis.
True: There is no cure for eczema and changing your diet may not always relieve symptoms of atopic dermatitis. However, a change may be helpful when your medical history, laboratory studies and specific symptoms strongly suggest a food allergy.