Atopic dermatitis (AD), a chronic skin condition, often begins in childhood, even infancy. But just because you reached adulthood without developing the condition does not mean you won’t. According to the National Eczema Association, one in four adults with eczema report that it appeared in adulthood. Most of the time this occurs in people in their 50s.
Let’s take a look at the facts surrounding atopic dermatitis in adults.
Atopic Dermatitis and Eczema are (Sometimes) the Same Thing
AD is one of several forms of eczema. Most people first experience AD as children, and may outgrow it. Other types of eczema that are not AD, but are most common in adults include varicose eczema (eczema affecting the lower legs when you have varicose veins ) and asteatotic eczema (a form of eczema occurring when your skin is extremely dry).
AD is Becoming More Prevalent in Children and Adults
The National Eczema Association estimates that about 16.5 million U.S. adults (7.3%) have AD, with nearly 40% affected with moderate to severe disease. 25% of those report that their AD appeared during adulthood. Studies suggest that AD is becoming more prevalent in both children and adults. The prevalence of childhood AD has increased from 8% to 15% since 1997. Six percent of adults with AD experienced onset after age 60.
AD is Caused By a Number of Factors
AD is caused by a combination of immune system activation, genetics, environmental triggers and stress. People with AD have a genetic abnormality involving their skin’s barrier and a hypersensitivity to environmental agents. Many people with AD experience other allergic diseases, such as asthma or hay fever. Flare-ups of AD are often in response to a trigger, such as allergens like pollen, pet dander, or peanuts, or by stress, infection, or dry skin.
Adult Onset AD is Both Different and Similar to Childhood AD
Both adult onset AD and childhood onset AD cause intensely itchy, irritated skin. Both are associated with developing asthma, hay fever, and other allergies. Both can cause sleep loss due to itching and decrease quality of life.
However, adult onset AD usually results in skin that is extremely dry and scaly where the flare up appears. Skin can grow thick and leathery or discolored. Adult onset AD tends to occur on the backs of the knees, in the crooks of the elbows, on the back of the neck, or on the face, especially around the eyes.
Left Untreated, AD Can Get Worse
Left untreated, adult onset AD tends to get worse and can make you feel depressed, anxious, or both. To help control AD, a simple, gentle, hydrating skin care routine is a must. Use only hypoallergenic fragrance-free ph balanced skin cleansers and warm (not hot) water. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the product off your skin. Towel dry, then apply a rich, hypoallergenic moisturizing cream or lotion twice per day.
Petroleum-based emollients are the safest option for severe flare ups of AD, but a product with natural botanical oils like jojoba, avocado, coconut, or shea butter is often a good choice for daily use. Be sure these products do not include essential oils that can trigger allergies. For the face, a hypoallergenic moisturizer with ceramides is a good option. Glycerin is also an excellent hydrating ingredient to look for in creams.
On top of a good skin care routine at home, our dermatologists can help with itching and flare ups with a variety of treatment options for AD. These include steroid creams or ointments, antihistamines, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and phototherapy. We can also perform patch testing and RAST testing to help identify triggers.
Get relief from atopic dermatitis at Arizona Dermatology
Whatever your AD experience, we are here to help. Relief is available! Come see us today.