Atopic Dermatitis Is Treated With a Chilling Approach

Health Writer

What is atopic dermatitis?

It's a chronic, often long-lasting skin condition marked with itching, skin rashes, inflammation.   Eczema is often substituted as a clinical term.   The atopic dermatitis triad includes: eczema, asthma and allergies like hayfever (and when the term atopic dermatitis is used, we often mean the triad) and is is typically found in males.   In atopic dermatitis the skin can get very itchy, inflamed, red, crusty and scaly and ooze fluid.   It typically runs in families.   Dry skin features prominently.

What causes atopic dermatitis?

First, let's make clear that it is not contagious.   There seems to be hypersensitivity and a tendency to have itchiness stimulated easily.   It is associated with stress as an instigator of recurrences.   Clearly there is a relationship with allergies.   It can be familial.

How is it typically treated?

Doctors will typically create a personalized treatment plan that may involve avoiding certain products or situations that stimulate or excacerbate the condition.   The doctor will target - **healing the skin, preventing more occurences and on the spot treatment when flareups occur.  ** Non-soap cleansers or emollient cleansers, non-clogging moisurizers, short showers, mild temperature water, avoiding drying agents like alcohol and fragrances and occasionally when outbreaks are severe - immunosuppressive drugs may be needed.   Reducing stress and avoiding depression is also important in this chronic condition.

BUT NOW a new "out of the box" therapy may be another tool to fight atopic dermatitis.   Whole body cryotherapy (exposure to bone-chilling temperatures) may be an answer for some - if they can tolerate it.   This treatment has been used for rheumatic inflammation and the theory in atopic dermatitis is that the blast of cold air  may increase the body's anti-oxidant capacity and reduce the production (by nerves) of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that features prominently in atopic dermatitis.   Out of 18 patients in the Finnish study, itching and sleep quality improved in 15 patients.

Another treatment option is increasing vitamin D supplementation, especially in kids who suffer with atopic dermatitis.   Treating with the active form of vitamin D, D 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D seems to encourage anti-microbial peptide production which, in turn, helps to prevent skin infection and helps immunosuppressive properties in the skin.   In fact, experts believe that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to atopic dermatitis.