Atopic Dermatitis is a very common skin disease that affects the face and body, where skin is constantly dry and irritable. Sufferers report two phases. An inactive phase (which they also call “interval“) where facial skin is dry and irritable, but symptoms can be managed, and an active phase, also known as the “flare-up” phase, where skin becomes inflamed and itchy. During a flare-up, a more active skin routine, using cosmetic skin care and/or pharmaceutical treatments, may be required.
Atopic Dermatitis (also known as Atopic Eczema) is a chronic skin disease that affects babies, children and adults – on the body as well as the face. It is characterised by dry, irritated and itchy skin which becomes thickened and can crack and sometimes bleed. There is no single known cause but sufferers do have a moisture deficiency and disruption of fatty acid metabolisms which lead to a breakdown of the skin barrier function.
Around 10% of the global population (between 10-20% of children and 2-5% of adults are affected) and cases are on the increase. In fact, over the past 30 years patient numbers have grown by 200-300%.
Atopic Dermatitis is most common in babies and children. 90% of patients experienced symptoms before they were five and 80% by the time they were two. Evidence suggests that there are slightly more female than male sufferers and it is predominantly a disease of the Western world.
Atopic skin goes through two phases: non-active (or “normal”) and active (or “flare-up”).
During a non-active phase facial skin may be dry to very dry, slightly flaky, pink to red and affected areas – most commonly the cheeks, scalp, forehead, round the eyes and behind the ears - may have small healed cracks.
The more distressing phase, both physically and psychologically, is the flare-up phase when sufferers experience light to intense itching and facial skin that is red to deep red, uneven to swollen, sore, flaky and even mildly bleeding.
If you are unsure about your symptoms seek the advice of a doctor or dermatologist.
As yet, no single cause has been identified although a number of factors are thought to contribute to Atopic Dermatitis.
These pathogenetic factors lead to dry skin with a disturbed barrier function.
When sufferers scratch, they damage the skin barrier leaving underlying layers prone to bacteria infection and environmental influences such as irritants, allergens and pollution.
There are a number of other textures or chemicals that can contribute to, or aggravate, existing symptoms, such as:
Although there is no ‘cure’ for Atopic Dermatitis, inactive and active flare-up symptoms can be alleviated with cosmetic skin care and pharmaceutical products.
During inactive phases, emollients (or moisturisers) must be used regularly and consistently every day. These creams, lotions and oils contain high concentrates of oil so help keep skin supple, moist and protected from irritants. Because skin is moisturised it is less itchy and the skin barrier is less likely to be damaged by scratching.
Ingredients often found in emollients include:
During flare-ups more active care is required to help reduce any inflammations and itching. Pharmaceutical products tend to use corticosteroids as they are very effective and fast-acting and alleviate itching in cares of severe flare-up. However, hydrocortisone is not a long-term sustainable option – particularly for babies and children - as prolonged use may thinnen skin. Also, it can’t be applied on large skin areas and its effectiveness is diminished with continuous use.
Eucerin’s AtoControl Acute Care Cream‘s skin caring properties significantly improve the skin‘s appearance during flare-up phases. AtoControl Acute Care Cream is not a pharmaceutical product and is not meant to replace one.
Sufferers can also make changes to their lifestyles to help alleviate their discomfort.
If you are unsure which management route to take please seek the advice of a doctor or dermatologist.