Whether you have eczema or care for someone who does, living with eczema is hard. It can also be confusing because the term eczema describes many kinds of itchy, red rashes. And these rashes can look different on different skin types. Here are some examples:
ATOPIC DERMATITIS IS ECZEMA THAT KEEPS COMING BACK, AND IT IS A CHRONIC CONDITION.
Atopic refers to the body’s increased sensitivity to allergens or irritants. Dermatitis refers to the inflamed skin. For some, atopic dermatitis occurs as flare-ups that occur several times a year, however, others may always show signs of the disease on their skin.
If you are a caregiver and notice your infant, child, or teen experiencing symptoms of the disease, including flare-ups, it’s important to find resources that can help. Get tips for recognizing possible symptoms of atopic dermatitis in children and teens, discussing the subject with their doctor, or finding a specialist.
Look at atopic dermatitis from the inside out and see what different cells are doing deep underneath the skin.
While the redness and rash of atopic dermatitis are visible on your skin, the real story may be happening beneath the surface.
Atopic dermatitis is more than a skin condition. It's a disease caused by an overactive immune system that leads to inflammation in your body.
It is this internal inflammation that causes the symptoms you know.
Atopic dermatitis is called the "itch that rashes" for a reason.
While scratching may offer short-term relief, in the long run you're actually making your atopic dermatitis—and the itch—worse.
This is called the itch-scratch cycle.
Your skin has 3 layers.
In healthy skin, the tough outer layer called the epidermis keeps foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, and allergens from getting in.
When you have atopic dermatitis, the outer layer of skin is weaker and more susceptible to inflammation caused by immune cells in the body.
The damage done by scratching also contributes to the breakdown of skin cells, making it easier for foreign substances to get in.
Once these foreign substances have broken through the skin barrier, immune cells alert the body that it's under attack.
These immune cells travel to the lymph nodes, which are in the second layer of skin, called the dermis. Once in the lymph nodes, these immune cells activate your body's defenders, called T helper cells.
The immune cells release substances that cause the familiar redness and rash on the skin's surface.
Although these substances normally go away after a short time, if you have atopic dermatitis, the cells don't switch off like they should. Instead, they continue the inflammatory process, so the skin continues to react, even when your skin looks clear.
Even when you have no visible rash, the underlying inflammation is still active beneath your skin.
The itching leads to scratching, which further weakens the skin cells in the epidermis, allowing more foreign substances to get in and increases your risk of infection. And the itch-scratch cycle continues.
Sanofi and Regeneron are committed to providing resources to advance research in areas of unmet medical needs among patients with inflammatory and immunological diseases.
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:
To really understand atopic dermatitis, you have to look at the deeper cause within the body. You may have experienced, or observed in those you care for, that the itching related to moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis can both delay falling asleep and disrupt sleep throughout the night.
Atopic dermatitis is an immunological disease, which means it involves the immune system. With atopic dermatitis, the immune system is overly sensitive and your skin barrier is weakened. This can cause your skin to react to even mild irritants or allergens. Rashes and itch on your skin are signs and symptoms of inflammation that's always active underneath the skin.
In people with atopic dermatitis, immune cells in the deeper layers of the skin send inflammatory signals to the surface, causing the itchy rash.
Scratching breaks down the outer layer of the skin, which allows germs, viruses, and allergens to get in.
The more scratching, the more the skin barrier breaks down, and the itch-scratch cycle continues.
In response to these invaders, the 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 (violet or grey depending on the color of the skin), 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 in part within the body.
I only need to concentrate on preventing the flare-ups of atopic dermatitis.
FALSE: Atopic dermatitis may need to be treated proactively, even when the skin of you or your love one looks normal.
When skin is clear, atopic dermatitis is gone.
FALSE: Atopic dermatitis is a disease where inflammation may be present under the skin even when there are no visible symptoms on the skin. 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. For example, 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.