Among the many major types of eczema, atopic dermatitis (sometimes called infantile eczema) is the most common. Most people develop atopic dermatitis before the age of five. This refers to a number of conditions where the skin is red and irritated.
“Atopic” means conditions where someone is sensitive to allergens like pollen, molds, dust, animal dander (fur and feathers), and some food. “Dermatitis” is the inflammation of the skin.
65% of the population develops atopic dermatitis during the first year of their lives, up to 90% until the age of 5. While it usually ends at the second year, around 50% suffers from it into adulthood as hand eczema.
Luckily, this kind of eczema is not contagious and there is no worry catching it from someone or giving it to anyone. It, however, runs in families where members have eczema, asthma or hay fever.
Red, itchy patches on the skin occur mostly in hands and feet. Other common areas are the elbow bends, backs of knees, ankles, wrists, necks and upper chests. But they can also happen anywhere in the body, including the face and around the eyes.
In infants, these patches develop on the scalp and face, especially on the cheeks.
Skins sometime swell, crack and develop scale. Without treatment, the skin protects itself from damage caused by scratching by developing a thick crust over the affected area.
Medical experts have not pinpointed the exact cause or causes of atopic dermatitis. There had been many false leads before.
However, they are one in the belief that the cause is a combination of complex interaction of many factors – our genes, where we live, chemical and organic pollutants, immune system malfunction, and a breakdown of the outermost skin layer.
Today, many risk factors related to atopic dermatitis eczema had already been isolated. Foremost is family history. If one or more members of your family had atopic conditions (dermatitis, asthma, hay fever), you have a good chance of developing the same.
Pollution-prone places also increase the risk of the illness. Females are slightly prone to the disease than males. It also tends to be more common in higher social classes and in families that are smaller in size.
Doctors usually look for a rash, and ask for the medical history of the patient and those of close relatives. The search is the presence of a history of atopic dermatitis, asthma or hay fever from everyone.
To learn if the patient has allergic contact dermatitis (another common eczema type), doctors conduct patch testing. This is a medical process for finding allergies.
Atopic dermatitis eczema cannot be cured. However, with proper treatment, most cases can be managed. The treatments are for hydrating the skin, reduce inflammation, decrease the risk of infection, and ease down the itchy feeling.
Doctors use emollients to relieve dry skin, compresses (cold) to relieve the itch, corticosteroids for inflammation reduction, and sometimes sedative antihistamines to help the patient sleep.
Today, doctors use a combination of therapies to treat skin discomfort and condition as well as having the patient makes lifestyle changes that help alleviate the illness. (Some of the triggers of common eczema such as atopic dermatitis are sometimes job-related.)
Is Ointment Good For Your Eczema?
Eczema, in everyday language, is a group of medical conditions that makes the skin irritated and inflamed. The most common eczema is called atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. Today, most doctors treat these conditions with ointment preparations.
Atopic basically refers to a group of diseases with an inherited tendency to develop other allergic condition like asthma or hay fever. Dermatitis generally refers to skin irritations.
This disease is common in young children and infants, but usually disappears after about the baby’s second year. Some people, however, bring it with them till adulthood and suffer throughout their lives.
At present, there is no cure yet found for atopic eczema, and the other types. The treatments are basically for relief and prevention of itch. (Scratching can lead to infection.)
Since the skin becomes dry and itchy, lotions and creams are applied to keep the skin moist. These are usually applied when the skin is damp (after bathing) to retain moisture. Itching is also partially eased with cold compresses.
Doctors usually prescribe ointments over other treatments like creams, liquids, pastes, shake lotion, and powder. The following are the treatments and how they act on your skin.
This would include baths, wet dressings, paints, and gels that liquefy on contact with your skin. Tar baths for eczema is also a liquid treatment.
Oil is also a liquid treatment and is used in combination with other ingredients to form oil-in-water and water-in-oil agents. Liquid treatments dry up are prescribed for sweaty and oozing skin and to generally reduce inflammation.
Creams are used primarily as a soothing moisturizer. It consists of two agents – oil and water – in a combination to form an emulsion of 50% water and 50% oil.
This emulsified form is helpful because it penetrates the stratum corneum, the outer layer of the skin that is hard and scaly.
Ointments are solutions consisting of 80% oil and 20% water. Generally, this combination makes for a better barrier against loss of skin moisture than creams and lotions.
In short, ointments are better moisturizers than any preparation. They form a protective layer on the skin and are strong moisturizers. (It locks in moisture better because it contains more oil.)
This preparation contains three agents – oil, water, and powder. Technically, a paste is an ointment where powder is suspended.
Pastes are less greasy, though. They can be an effective carrier for dermatological medications. It soothes inflamed and weeping (oozing liquid) skin.
It is a single agent and is usually added to others to make shake lotions and pastes. For eczema, the common powdered medication is zinc oxide.
They are used to decrease skin-to-skin friction, and promote drying of sweaty and oozing skin lesions. However, they should not be applied to skin creases where they dry out and form clumps that can rub and irritate the skin.
These lotions are made with powder and liquid. To use, they must be shaken first to disperse the powder evenly within the liquid. Powdered ingredients tend to settle down inside shake lotion bottles.
These are used to treat lesions wet or oozing skin lesions. All in all, each of these various forms of eczema treatment has specific uses, depending on the conditions of your skin lesions.