The term ‘atopy’ is derived from the Greek word atopos, which means ‘out of place’. It denotes an immune reaction that is ‘strange or eccentric’. Atopic skin results from a dysfunction in the skin’s barrier, causing the skin to be overly sensitive and react to a variety of substances. People who have atopic skin typically experience chronic and persistent skin irritation. Commonly used products such as soap, detergent and cosmetics can cause an intensified reaction, wreaking havoc on the skin. Redness, swelling, irritation, itchiness and rashes are some of the reactions that can occur. Depending on the severity, atopic skin can significantly impact quality of life. Fortunately a wide variety of skincare products can help to manage and treat the symptoms.
Common symptoms of atopic skin include:
- Skin irritation
- Rashes Redness and inflammation
- Burning sensations
- Itchiness that interrupts sleep
The skin barrier dysfunction associated with atopic skin is hereditary – passed from generation to generation. People with atopic skin generally have increased serum Ig E levels, which is a sign of increased immunological activity.
When selecting skin care products for atopic skin, look for brands that are hypoallergenic or that are specially formulated for sensitive skin. Use gentle liquid cleansers that are fragrance-free. Avoid scrubbing the skin as this can cause irritation to worsen. Moisturizers can help restore the skin barrier if too much dryness occurs. Unfortunately, different products may elicit different skin reactions depending on the individual. You may have to try a few different products to find one that suits your skin best.
For individuals with atopic skin, avoiding irritants and moisturizing frequently is the best prevention.
Moisturizing is a must. Both traditional moisturizers help as well as the newer physiologic ceramide based barrier repair products.Oral antihistamines can reduce itching and swelling. A sedating antihistamine – used at bedtime – appears to give the best effect. Hydroxyzine has been used with good effect.
A doctor may prescribe topical steroids to reduce inflammation and itch. Anti inflammatory medications such as topical steroids and topical immunomodulators called calcinurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are used.Topical steroids are available as creams, lotions, gels and ointments. Some products can also provide moisturize the skin.