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Approximately 1.6 million Australians suffer from atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis Source: Getty Images

Approximately 1.6 million Australians are thought to be living with atopic dermatitis, with around one in five suffering from a moderate to severe form of the condition.

Unlike other types of eczema, atopic dermatitis typically does not go away in a few days or weeks, and it often returns or flares up after periods of getting better.


Highlights 

  • Approximately 1.6 million Australians are thought to be living with atopic dermatitis
  • Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition caused by an overactive immune system and is one of the most common and severe forms of eczema
  • Advance therapies available are now aprroved by the PBS for subsidisation through the medicare system

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Approximately 1.6 million Australians suffer from atopic dermatitis
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Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition caused by an overactive immune system and is one of the most common and severe forms of eczema says Professor Chris Baker, a clinical dermatologist based in Melbourne and practising general dermatology with interests in advanced psoriasis therapies, photodermatology, phototherapy, skin cancer and clinical trials, and the director of the Department of Dermatology at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

"Atopic dermatitis is a very common skin condition that often begins in childhood that affects teenagers and adults as well. This is what people often call eczema. Eczema and dermatitis are often used interchangeably."

Professor Baker says the main symptom of atopic dermatitis is itch.

"Atopic dermatitis is a very itchy condition and patients will find itch very disruptive to their life. Skin also becomes dry and scaly, and for some, the skin doesn't look like normal skin."

Common triggers

Stress, changes in temperature, sweat, dust, and allergies are all common triggers says Professor Baker.

"It’s a condition that has a lot of factors. For example, stress and being rundown. Patients often say their eczema is worst when stressed. For some, it’s aggravated by heat and sweating, so temperature extremes and the extremes of humidity tend to trigger it."

There are also cases when the immune system makes a mistake and the immune system tends to react to lots of different allergens that are in the environment that contributes to the problem, he adds.

Does atopic dermatits flare up during summer?

There’s a group of people who tend to flare up on winter when the heater is turned on says Professor Baker and there are also people who will find that their eczema is exacerbated by heat and sweating especially if they live in hot and humid environment. 

Who are prone to atopic dermatitis?

Professor Baker says atopic dermatitis affects pretty much all people living in countries all around the world.

"The incidence or prevalence of the condition vary but it affects all groups of people."

Treatment controls the problem, but doesn't cure

Professor Baker says that since atopic dermatitis is a genetic condition, the treatment does not cure the problem, instead it brings the problem under control.

"For patients of atopic dermatitis, its often a matter of learning how to manage the skin and protect the skin from irritation and aggravation. Cream and anti-inflammatory creams for the majority of patients can prove to be quite effective."

However, for moderate and severe eczema, Professor Baker says that an advanced treatment is needed.

"There are advance therapies available now for eczema that has been approved by the PBS for subsidisation through the medicare system and it's good news for patients who have severe eczema."

He urges eczema sufferers to seek medical help when needed.

"I urge people to engage with their GP and have a treatment plan. For those who have severe atopic dermatitis who needs advance treatment, I recommend referral to a skin specialist for opinion."

Healthy Pinoy is SBS Filipino's weekly segment on health. The content provided is for informational purposes only and does not intend to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your GP or doctor for support.

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