Dr Bassett on Atopic Dermatitis vs. Contact Dermatitis

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Today, I’d like to discuss atopic dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema, and allergic contact dermatitis.

Two Types of Contact Dermatitis

There are two main types of contact dermatitis. The first is what we see after the skin is ‘irritated’ by something. In the second type, dermatitis may occur when a substance such as a skin care product, sunscreen, fragrance or even a metal causes an allergic reaction after your skin comes in contact with it. We refer to these substances as allergens.

The reaction, which is most often a rash, is generally delayed until several days after your skin is exposed to the ‘trigger’ or allergen. The skin then becomes itchy, reddens or swells up. Metal allergy is on the rise (particularly in women) with the most common allergen being nickel, although gold allergy is now becoming more common. These metals are present in earrings, body piercings and even costume jewelry.

In office allergy skin patch tests done by an allergist or dermatologist can truly help pinpoint the cause, and then avoiding the allergen that triggers an individual’s contact dermatitis should follow.

Contact dermatitis or a skin allergy is most often seen around the hands or parts of the body that touched the irritant or allergen.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is one of the most common chronic skin conditions. Atopic dermatitis is a disease that causes itchy, inflamed, easily irritated skin and affects tens of millions. It almost always begins during infancy and childhood. Almost all patients experience eczema before the age of five. The most common areas affected include: forearm, backs of knees, face, and even elbows. Eczema is frequently associated with a family history of allergy and/or asthma. In many cases, food ingestion in children can also play a role in the onset of eczema or atopic dermatitis. Moisturizing your skin is so very important on a regular basis, and it’s one of the most important things to do if you have significant eczema. Going scent and perfume free can also provide relief in those who are sensitive. It is also important to have a complete, total body skin exam to exclude other common skin conditions and to get a proper diagnosis and course of management.

Topical Steroid Creams

Topical steroid creams have been used for many years and a majority of sufferers rely on them for relief. Other medications, particularly various prescription creams may help reduce the need for continuing steroid creams and also serve to provide a way to reduce the day to day suffering from eczema. Stress management also needs to considered and implemented as well.

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