How to Live More Comfortably with Atopic Skin Conditions

With our unique climate, twenty-first century diets and genetic makeup, there are many common skin conditions prevalent here in Ireland. The most common category is atopic skin conditions. The word atopic refers to a reaction of hypersensitivity to something in the environment which means you are prone to react to allergic triggers leading to a full-blown ailment such as atopic dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema.

Atopic conditions are more common in children globally, while the conditions are not as common in adults. It affects approximately 1 in 5 children and 1 in 10 adults in Ireland.

Atopic eczema also known as atopic dermatitis is a very common, non-contagious, chronic (long-term) inflammatory skin condition. Those with atopic eczema has a weakened or impaired skin barrier, the skin barrier is important to prevent water loss and protect the body from allergens and irritants. Because this protective barrier is not functioning the way it should the skin will dry out and become vulnerable to bacteria and viruses.

The exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown however it is thought to be acondition that can be caused by genetics, so it is inherited. It also can come about in people with altered inflammatory and allergy responses.

Atopic eczema often can occur alongside other conditions like hay fever and asthma. Flare ups can happen anywhere on the body but commonly appear at the back of the elbows, behind the knees, on the scalp and face. Flare ups can also happen after long periods of dormancy.

Some of the common triggers of atopic eczema and other inflammatory skin diseases include pollen, dust, and nuts. However, those whose skin is vulnerable to the infection will react to different triggers at various times.

As experts in the field of skincare here in Ireland, the aim of this guide to inform, educate and support those who suffer from atopic skin conditions (or those who care for someone who suffers) and to reassure you that you're not alone in this struggle and that that help is on hand should you need it, in the form of professional skincare treatments and/or cosmetic remedial solutions.

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis

Just because you have red itchy skin doesn't automatically mean that you have atopic eczema; there are other signs to look out for.

Here are some of the most common eczema symptoms in both young children and adults:

  • Severe Itchiness, especially during the night
  • Dryness of the skin
  • Inflamed skin irritation
  • Scaly patches of skin
  • Red patches on different areas of skin such as the hands, chest, wrist, neck and face.
  • Eczema also makes the skin scaly and cracked
  • Small pimples that crust when scratched

The atopic dermatitis symptoms you experience may be mild or severe depending on the rate of spread and infection on your skin.

Although having one or more of symptoms may be immediately apparent and you're certain you're suffering from eczema; it's always advised to visit a doctor or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis. Especially when the symptoms are accompanied by hay fever or asthma, you should seek medical attention.

The doctor may advise you on the right products such as steroid cream and medications to use to clear the scaly skin and the soaps or detergents that may be favourable to the palms of the hands and other affected areas to curb the irritation.

Causes of Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis can be triggered by a combination of factors such as environmental factors, compromised immune system, genetic triggers and environmental triggers.

The most common causes for these reactions include household detergents, bleach, certain types of jewelry, latex, nickel, paint, organic matter such as poison ivy or other poisonous plants, harmful skincare products, including makeup, soaps and perfumes, solvents, tobacco or cigarette smoke, among may other triggering substances.

Eczema causes may vary from one individual to the next. However, the following are the primary triggers of the skin condition:

  1. Environmental Causes

Your surroundings are potential triggers of eczema, and the triggers may cause and accelerate your skin's irritation. Examples of environmental atopic dermatitis cause are high or low humidity. Low humidity will make the skin dehydrated and irritable, while high humidity will make the skin sweaty and itchy, triggering a reaction.

Soaps and detergents are other triggers of the condition, especially those including fragrances that could affect your sensitive skin. In addition, the harsh soaps make your skin dry. Consequently, they may worsen the skin condition.

Intensive skincare products and enhancements such as steroid creams and ointments can also prove potential causes of eczema.

Other environmental eczema triggers include exposure to wool, dust, tobacco and lack of enough air, where the dampness in the enclosed area could potentially lead to a skin reaction.

  1. Immune System

Your immune systems could react to the allergens, and your slightest exposure to potential eczema triggers will awaken the condition.

If your immunity is prone to other preexisting conditions, you are at a higher risk of infection. If you have itchy dry skin brought about by other health complications, you should get medical advice on preventing your condition from turning into severe eczema.

If you suffer from an allergy of any other kind, you are at risk of contracting eczema atopic dermatitis.

  1. Genetic Causes

If eczema is in your family you will be genetically more prone to developing the condition.

In fact, if in your lineage you have a history of conditions such as asthma and reactions to allergens, down the line, yourself, your children or future generations could be at a higher risk of suffering from the atopic dermatitis condition.

  1. Emotional Causes

Stress is a trigger for eczema flare ups. Stress management techniques like mindfulness or speaking to a trusted person to reduce stress, may lessen the frequency and, hopefully, the intensity of these flare ups.  

  1. Infection

Like a vicious cycle those with atopic skin conditions are more likely to be vulnerable to skin infection and those skin infections can also worsen the atopic condition.

 

Atopic Skin Condition Treatment

There is no singular, one-size-fits-all cure for eczema. As covered above, your skin type, your family history (genetic makeup), stress-levels and lifestyle can all play a contributing factor in how your skin develops - and no two lives are the same for a fully prescriptive diagnosis to emerge.

However, there are various ways that the condition can be contained. If the condition is mild and the flare-ups are few and far-between, often an emollient routine and using the correct products to treat symptoms may be sufficient for you. However, you may need to seek professional help for severe cases.

Always air on the side of caution when it comes to your health - the wrong advice and the wrong course of treatment can make eczema worse.

To treat an eczema skin condition, a common plan recommended by Irish dermatologists could potentially include:

  • Avoid soaps or use mild ones that are fragrance-free. Instead, go for soap detergents that are labelled for sensitive skin or don't contain alcohol.
  • Moisturise your skin several times a day with an emollient product.
  • Avoid using excessively hot water as it can make symptoms worse, further drying and irritating your skin
  • Go for light therapy as ultraviolet light has been used to treat skin ailments, including atopic dermatitis.
  • If your type of eczema is emotional, attributed to stress or depression, consider seeking counselling and therapy to tackle the underlying issues.
  • Avoid the foods that cause food allergies that could lead your skin to become itchy.
  • Visit a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment. They may prescribe topical treatments that you apply to your skin in the event of a flare.

A doctor should also be able to advise you on how to manage the possibility of the itching resurfacing or symptoms getting worse and can inform you of any side effects of the treatments you could be using.

Some of the known side effects of atopic dermatitis treatments include:

  • Some prescribed medicines like some antihistimines can cause drowsiness.
  • Skin thinning from certain prescribed topical treatments
  • High blood pressure
  • Lower legs swelling due to the pressure
  • Weight gain

Types of Eczema

There are several types of eczema, the most common one found here in Ireland include:

  • Atopic dermatitis makes your skin red and itchy.
  • Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with something that irritates your skin or something you're allergic to.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema (a.k.a. pompholyx) causes small blisters to form on your hands and feet.
  • Venuous stasis dermatitis happens when there's a problem with your veins (usually in your lower legs) that inhibit healthy blood circulation.
  • Neurodermatitis is characterised by chronic itching or scaling.

Allergic contact dermatitis is almost identical to atopic dermatitis; the notable difference is that contact dermatitis is caused by the skin coming into contact with a product that causes an allergic reaction.

Atopic Eczema Skin Products in Ireland

Although one-off, permanent solutions for eczema atopic dermatitis do not yet exist, there are several tried, tested and trusted products for dry and eczema-prone skin that you can use to relieve, ease and mitigate against the flares-ups, many of which can do the trick for months or even years.

What to look for in Eczema Skin Products

To give yourself the best chance of obtaining healthy skin for a sustained period, here's a short checklist to keep in mind when buying your products:

  • Unscented - always choose fragrance-free products, especially if your skin is still irritable and dry. Smelling lovely isn’t worth the irritation!
  • Moisturising capacity - dry skin can be itchy, and it's susceptible to eczema, it could trigger an allergic reaction. So you need a product that properly hydrates your skin and prevents scratching.
  • Topical application - you want a product that you can quickly apply to the itching section.
  • Dematologist reviewed and approved - avoid substandard products that could accelerate or worsen the eczema symptoms.
  • Pleasant to use! Consistency is key in adopting an emollient routine to manage eczema, you must enjoy using the product to ensure that you are consistent with your routine.

Given the discomfort that comes with it, eczema can cause you to react hastily and go for a below-par product in terms of quality. However, avoid the temptation, as the substandard products could have counter effects.

Some of the best eczema skin products currently on the Irish market include:

Each of these product ranges meet the parameters necessary for dealing with atopic dermatitis eczema, and there are options available for children, teens and adults.

Skin infections can potentially affect your emotional well being, and it's therefore advisable that you take your time and seek expert advice and invest in the right product for your condition.

Skincare Routine for Eczema

Like any other type of human skin type, you need to have a routine for your affected skin to tame the symptoms which affect you most.

As you seek to alleviate eczema symptoms, consider the following daily routine for optimal skin health:

  1. Moisturise

This is the topmost exercise as your aim is to lock in the moisture to retain the soothing effect on dry skin for longer. You must moisturise daily to minimise the number of flare ups and reinforce the skins barrier function.

  1. Bathing

Maintain short showers and use lukewarm water. Avoid hot water as it tends to dry up your skin which could trigger itching.

  1. Avoid Triggers

Identify and steer clear of your eczema triggers, whether food, pollen or dust.

  1. Hydrate

Drink enough water during the day to allow the skin to stay hydrated.

The Meaghers Verdict on Atopic Skin Conditions

Your skin's health is paramount. Eczema can be controlled with the right products, such as the highlighted brands. Avoid the agony; you are not alone on the eczema journey, the products will help you minimise the probability of recurrence.

Home remedies will come in handy in handling eczema; upon diagnosis, take it upon yourself to understand all viable ways to tackle the condition. Do not let it weigh you down. It will take some patience to learn how to handle the flares, but with the right advice and course of action, you'll be better positioned to manage these frustrating symptoms.

People with eczema may require interacting and sharing experiences and unique symptoms on forums such as the Irish Skin Foundation, who regularly publish stories from fellow atopic skin condition sufferers to help spread awareness and avoid the stresses that come with such infections.

Contact Us to Discuss Your Atopic Skincare Needs

If you or a loved one suffer from any of the ailments mentioned in this guide, we’re truly hopeful that we’ve armed you with the information necessary to make the right choices to suit your own specific situation. Our aim, as always, is to provide you with the best level of care and advice possible and to ensure you're feeling supported and empowered to overcome the health challenges you face throughout life.

As ever, we strongly advise anyone considering a new course of treatment for problematic skin conditions to seek expert dermatological advice before adopting any new skincare products or routines and to educate themselves fully before deciding on the best course of action for themselves.

If you need to chat with our team of skincare experts, we're here to help and assist you always.

Skincare