Eczema is a general term that describes a common skin irritation that may cause the skin to blister, ooze, crust or flake off. Similarly, atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common form of eczema, which affects at least 2-3 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of children, said Prof Dr Kiran Godse, D Y Patil Hospital, Navi Mumbai.
“It is also known that about 10-15 per cent of Indian population has some form of atopy and manifestation of AD since the first year of their life. Although AD is most often diagnosed in childhood, an estimated 1 in 4 adults with the disease experience the onset of initial symptoms after the age of 18,” the expert added.
AD is a chronic inflammatory long-lasting disease characterised by dry, itchy skin that oozes or can weep clear fluid when scratched, flaring up periodically. Of those affected, one-third of children and 40 per cent of adults have moderate to severe disease, which is known to negatively impact quality of life (QoL), increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, and even suicide.
Whether AD is mild, moderate, or severe, itch appears to be the most burdensome symptom overall. Even in severe cases, with widespread skin involvement and extensive oozing and crusting, pruritus or itch is still the major concern and a significant burden of the disease. Some researchers have also called atopic dermatitis as “the itch that rashes”.
“In the absence of biological markers for AD, the frequency and severity of itch is assessed with questionnaires that use a numeric rating scale (NRS), visual analogue scale, verbal rating scale (VRS), and other measures. According to Indian researchers, only 40 per cent of AD cases are diagnosed and most patients end up using OTC products until they turn severe,” the expert said.
What triggers AD?
The main triggers of AD are dry skin, irritants, stress, allergies, infection, and heat/sweating. Along with family history, past allergies are one of the key reasons, with the primary risk factor for atopic dermatitis is having hay fever or asthma.
In adults, there are factors like polluted environment, food poisoning, low humidity, long showers, and stress that might trigger AD. The impact can be controlled by getting in touch with your dermatologist as soon as you recognise the symptoms.
Finding the right treatment is important. Calming the skin by OTC products may reduce stress for short period, but never helps prevent excessive scratching that leads to skin infections and severity of AD, which is up to 10 per cent of total cases. Furthermore, it is a known fact that atopic dermatitis aggravates and impacts not just physical and mental health, but it also leads to development of other diseases.
There is lack of awareness and hence, treatment options vary from over-the-counter skin care, prescription medication, and lifestyle changes. Proper consultation with dermatologist can help the patient lead a better quality of life.