by Tengku Elena Tengku Mahamad
Atopic eczema usually starts in the first few months of a child's life, but it can develop in adults. It is characterised by dry, itchy, red and inflamed skin. It is either endogenous (caused by hereditary factors) or exogenous (caused by external factors such as environmental triggers).
Atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema. It often runs in families and there may be a family history of other atopic conditions such as hay fever and asthma.
Most cases of atopic eczema get better with age. There are between 40 and 50% of children whose condition will improve or clear by the age of 10.
Atopic eczema is on the rise and the reason is uncertain but it could be related to urbanisation and hygiene. The more developed the country, the smaller the number of siblings in the family, the higher the incidence of severity in eczema.
Social Economic Impact
Atopic eczema is a serious skin condition that not only affects the sufferer's physical being but also has social economic impact.
Children with atopic eczema cannot sleep. They are stressed about their condition. They will skip school because other children tease them. Their condition worsens when they are exposed to the weather and other elements.
In most cases, parents of atopic eczema patients are often unaware of their condition, thinking that it is a normal rash that can be treated with over-the-counter drugs such as steroids and antibiotics. Using these drugs without a doctor's prescription will lead to further damage to the skin.
It is important to emphasise caution in the use of typical steroids. They are useful to reduce inflammation. If you use the wrong strength in the face and groins, it can cause a lot of damage.
Treatment will depend on individual patients but the aim is to help them control their condition so that they will have a better quality of life.
Having atopic eczema is a vicious cycle. The more you itch, the more you scratch. And the more you scratch, the more you itch. Find out what triggers the itchiness and reduces flare-ups. Food can also be the triggering factor and could worsen the condition.
Treatments to reduce flare-ups include using emollients to keep the skin moist and form a protective barrier to outside irritants, reduce cracking of the skin and dryness as well as relieve the itch. Anti-itch medications and anti-histamines may be taken to relieve night-time itch and scratching.
Parents should also take necessary steps to avoid flare-ups such as ensuring their children bring along emollients to school and inform the teachers that the students avoid heat and direct sunlight. Parents should also tell the their children's schoolmates the condition so that they would not be teased.
Teachers and students need to be informed that atopic eczema is not an infectious condition. People avoid children with skin condition because they think they will get it too.
To avoid flare-ups, patients should keep their homes as cool as possible and avoid having pets. They should also avoid jobs as hairdressers, nurses, caterers and cleaners.
More info on ECZEMA here.