Understanding the Difference Between Atopic and Contact Dermatitis

Understanding the Difference Between Atopic and Contact Dermatitis

Dreaming of an itch-free day? Eczema can cause itching so intense that it disrupts your daily routines and impacts your quality of life. But trying to find relief can be overwhelming. What type of eczema do you have? Which creams or treatments are designed to tackle your eczema?

Our team of specialists here at Regional Allergy Asthma & Immunology Center knows that eczema treatments depend on what type of eczema you have. We’re skilled in identifying the type of eczema plaguing you and recommending customized eczema treatment solutions for you or your child.

In this blog, we focus on two of the most common types of eczema: atopic and contact dermatitis. 

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most prevalent type of eczema. This type of eczema affects both adults and children. The National Eczema Association estimates that 16.5 million adults and almost 10 million children have atopic dermatitis. 

Causes of atopic dermatitis

Research shows that a filaggrin deficiency can lead to increased eczema, especially atopic dermatitis. Filaggrin is a protein that supports the protective barrier in your skin. Without enough filaggrin, your skin’s protective barrier can become “leaky,” which allows moisture to escape. In other words, filaggrin deficiency accounts for why so many individuals with atopic dermatitis have dry, infection-prone skin. 

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is more than just itchy skin, although that is the hallmark symptom of eczema. Patches of dry, itchy skin can create systems of itching, scratching, bleeding, and increased skin infections. Atopic dermatitis can lead to:

Atopic dermatitis is chronic and runs in families, and it can come and go over months or years. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can overlap with other types of eczema.

Contact dermatitis

Unlike atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis doesn’t run in families. Instead, this type of eczema tends to pop up in individuals with hay fever or individuals who are exposed to irritants at work. 

Causes of contact dermatitis

Two types of contact dermatitis include:

  1. Irritant contact dermatitis, which develops when your skin is exposed to irritating substances, such as soap, jewelry that contains nickel, detergents, makeup, hair dye, or overwashing hands with hot water and soap.
  2. Allergic contact dermatitis, which is a delayed allergic reaction that develops 1-2 days after skin is exposed to allergens, such as poison ivy, topical antibiotics, or fragrances.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis

Like atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis causes itchy skin. You may also see blisters develop, especially in the case of poison ivy. 

Beyond itching… eczema affects your quality of life

Both atopic and contact dermatitis can profoundly affect the quality of your life. Constant itchy can disrupt healthy sleep patterns (which can then cause issues from inadequate sleep) as well as increase your risk of skin infections. Dry, scaling patches can also cause self-esteem issues in children and adults, especially if the eczema patches are in visible areas such as your hands. 

Thankfully, there are some strategies you can implement to support your skin. This includes avoiding known triggers, switching to soaps and detergents without toxic or harsh ingredients, wearing gloves when using solvents or cleaners, and moisturizing your skin (especially after washing your hands).

Tip: Hand sanitizer has become more prevalent due to the pandemic. If you suspect that fragrances are irritating your skin, look for soaps and hand sanitizers without added fragrances. 

Eczema treatment that provides relief

No matter which type of eczema you have 一 atopic or contact dermatitis 一 your number one goal is to find relief from dry, itchy skin. In addition to lifestyle changes (such as changing your soap or detergents), our team of understanding providers recommends the right prescription medications and/or topical products for you. 

Depending on which type of eczema you have, you might benefit from:

Getting your eczema under control is our top priority, and that’s why we work to develop a custom treatment plan (including skincare guidance) so you can find relief from itching. To book an appointment, contact the location of your choice 一 Kingsport or Johnson City, Tennessee, or Abingdon, Virginia 一 today. 

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