Christopher Byrne, RPA-C with Advanced Dermatology PC, Offers Tips to Help Adults Manage Atopic Dermatitis

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Giving Adult Eczema the Attention It Deserves.

Chris Byrne, RPA-C

While AD usually starts during childhood as many as fifty percent see symptoms persist into adulthood. And some have their first episode as an adult.

Online advice for the maddeningly itchy skin condition atopic dermatitis often tells parents how to help their children. “Atopic dermatitis may appear to be a childhood ailment,” notes Christopher Byrne, a certified registered physician’s assistant specializing in dermatology with Advanced Dermatology PC. “In fact, millions of adults contend with this very difficult condition.”

“While AD usually starts during childhood,” says Byrne, “as many as fifty percent see symptoms persist into adulthood. And some have their first episode as an adult.”

AD is the most common of the group of inflammatory skin conditions called ‘eczema.’ Research continues on its causes. Genes and environmental factors – allergens, stress, irritants – seem to trigger an immune system misfire that results in inflamed, extremely itchy skin. Left untreated, AD can lead to infections and lichenification – permanently thickened, constantly itchy skin.

“AD,” explains Byrne, “damages our skin’s top layer – the stratum corneum. This can create chronic problems with keeping moisture in and pathogens out.”

“In the U.S.,” continues Byrne, “more than seven percent of adults – over sixteen million – grapple with AD. Severe flare-ups are torturous: incessant itching that interferes with sleep and leads to damaging scratching; pain; embarrassment due to its red, scaly, weepy appearance. Unmanaged, AD can disrupt professional and personal lives – impacting job performance and intimate relationships. Adults who suffer from AD have higher rates of anxiety and depression.”

Atopic dermatitis is not contagious, but its incidence is increasing. “Numbers have surged,” observes Byrne. “Fortunately, we have a range of treatments to help adults control symptoms.”

With this in mind, Byrne suggests the following:

Five Tips for Managing Adult Atopic Dermatitis

1. Avoid your triggers: “We want to keep flares tamped down,” notes Byrne. “Working with your dermatologist, you can identify triggers. Patients have different responses to environmental factors such as detergents or product additives.”

2. Build up your skin’s protective barrier: “Keeping your skin moisturized,” emphasizes Byrne, “helps prevent the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle. The catch phrase is ‘Soak and Seal’ because the best way to moisturize is by capturing the water on damp skin. This needs to be done carefully: baths or showers should be lukewarm, lasting about ten minutes. Cleansing must be gentle, with neutral to low-pH products, and no scrubbing. Timing is critical: an ointment or cream moisturizer should be applied within three minutes. Waiting longer will allow moisture to evaporate from our skin, leading to dryness.”

3. Choose the right moisturizer: “Especially now,” says Byrne, “when we’re all washing our hands more due to COVID-19, effective moisturizing is essential. Lotions can dry skin out due to their high-water content, which evaporates. The higher the product’s oil content, the more protective it will be. Thick ointments like petroleum jelly work well. Your dermatologist can help you find a product that you like. And the National Eczema Association’s website has a ‘Seal of Acceptance’ list of products. Consistency is also a must: every time after your skin gets wet, which means moisturizer at every sink and a to-go tube when leaving the house. Using ‘more’ is key. If it feels tacky, that’s OK; it will absorb within minutes.”

4. Talk to your specialist about treatments: “Adult AD often requires ongoing maintenance therapy,” notes Byrne. “Your dermatologist can explain different options. These include topical products, such as corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), and PDE4 inhibitors, all of which decrease inflammation. Your skin specialist can also explain other approaches, such as narrow-band UVB light therapy, as well as the latest ‘biologic’ therapies, which genetically target the proteins involved with AD. It’s important to work with a specialist who can explain treatment timeframes, outcomes, and side effects, as well as those that are indicated for short-term use versus ongoing maintenance.”    

5. Stay with the program: “Once a patient has an effective maintenance program,” says Byrne, “they’ll want to stick with it. Adult AD typically needs ongoing support to prevent reoccurrence.”

“Addressing adult atopic dermatitis,” concludes Byrne, “is not child’s play. But for the millions who have the condition, a partnership with a trusted skin specialist can lead to lasting relief.”

Bio: Christopher Byrne RPA-C is a certified physician assistant with Advanced Dermatology PC.

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.

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