Scratching the surface of eczema

Scratching the surface of eczema

Scratching the surface of eczema

Dry, sensitive, and itchy skin is no laughing matter. Sadly for the estimated 15 million sufferers in the UK alone, atopic dermatitis – that’s eczema to you and me – is incredibly common. This pesky inflammatory skin disease can be very uncomfortable to the host, making skin red raw, dry, cracked, and tender. It’s more likely to occur in children, with almost a third of youngsters having this irritating ailment. But it affects more than just our infants. Eczema can occur at any age.

By definition, atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition, meaning that it’s long-lasting and has a tendency to flare periodically. It also commonly accompanies other allergies, such as hay fever or asthma.

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema triggered by direct contact with something an individual has an allergy; typically, this will be from chemicals, bathroom products, jewellery, make-up or materials used in construction. Usually, you see delayed reactions, which can range from flaring up in a matter of hours to several days.

As an example, you can consider certain washing detergents as irritants because they can damage the outer layer of skin. But in the case of contact allergy, the immune system that recognises the allergen as a threat will damage skin. It’s more likely to affect the face and hands because the skin is thinner.

Touchy feely

There have been conflicting theories about whether or not contact allergy is a common problem in sufferers of atopic dermatitis. Some believe that patients with atopic dermatitis were unlikely to also suffer from contact dermatitis. The British Journal of Dermatology recently conducted a systematic review to challenge this and get to the bottom of the debate.

They wanted to distinguish the truth in the importance of undertaking a patch test for the allergens for contact dermatitis when a patient already suffers from atopic dermatitis.

To test the theory, they examined 68 children that fell into either category of “with” or ”without” atopic dermatitis. They measured results when a child experienced a minimum of one positive patch test reaction. It affected 41.7% of the children “with” as well as 46.6% of children “without”. These results show that whether an individual suffers from atopic dermatitis or not, patch testing is still vital as you may miss allergens for allergic contact dermatitis.

If you are one of the 15 million people that find yourself suffering from itchy skin and want to find out more about how you improve your condition, please book an appointment with our consultants.

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