Written By: Usha Nagavarapu
Atopic dermatitis (AD), collectively known as eczema, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by a dysfunctional skin barrier. AD, also called atopic eczema, is a recurrent inflammatory skin condition that affects 15-20% of children and 1-3% of adults worldwide. It is a chronic condition characterized by acute flare-ups of eczematous pruritic lesions that causes the skin to become inflamed and irritated. Sadly, the prevalence of this disorder is increasing, and it poses a significant burden on health-care resources and patients’ quality of life. It is evident that dermatologists have many treatment options and guidelines for AD. Still, the treatment does not seem to address AD individuals’ underlying issues, as they vary from patient to patient. Several patients and families with AD are seeking a more holistic approach to help address and find a cure for the disorder. There is an increased emphasis on natural therapies, and alternative medicines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture, and Ayurveda, in conjunction with Western medical treatments are being pursued. This review attempts to summarize some of the available treatment options to understand the integrative holistic approach needed to treat an AD individual.
Keywords: eczema, atopic dermatitis; Ayurveda
Atopic dermatitis (AD), collectively known as eczema, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by a dysfunctional skin barrier.[i] The word eczema comes from the Greek word ekzein meaning “to boil out”; word ek means “out”, while zema means boiling.[ii] The exact cause of eczema is not known. People with eczema do have the IgE antibodies (immunoglobulin E) produced by the immune system as part of allergic reactions. Eczema can be a tough and vexing condition accompanied by overwhelming psychological challenges faced by the patients. AD is a chronic condition that causes the skin to become inflamed and irritated, making it extremely itchy. It can come and go for years or throughout life and can overlap with other types of eczema. The disorder is often observed to be associated with redness, swelling, “weeping” clear fluid, crusting and scaling.
AD is a common condition and anyone can get the disease, but it is commonly seen to begin in childhood. Living with atopic dermatitis can often be arduous, but treatment can help control symptoms. In United States (US) and Europe, the prevalence of AD among children is estimated to be approximately 20%, and among adults is estimated to range between 7% and 14% in adults. The condition is extremely widespread in the US, and it is estimated that over 31 million Americans suffer from some type of eczema. In the US, AD is the most common type of eczema, affecting over 9.6 million children and about 16.5 million adults. An estimated $364 million to $3.8 billion is spent on treating and managing AD each year.[iii] It therefore accounts for a significant economic global burden.[iv] among skin disease treatments.
[i] Pelc J, Czarnecka-Operacz M, Adamski Z. Structure and function of the epidermal barrier in patients with atopic dermatitis – treatment options. Part one. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2018;35(1):1-5.
[ii] Hegde P, Hemanth DT, Emmi SV, Shilpa MP, Shindhe PS, Santosh YM. A case discussion on eczema. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010;1(4):268-270.
[iii] “The Socioeconomic Impact of Atopic Dermatitis in the United States” 24 Feb. 2008, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1525-1470.2007.00572.x.
[iv] Simon Bylund, Laura B. von Kobyletzki, Marika Svalstedt and Åke Svensson. Prevalence and Incidence of Atopic Dermatitis: A Systematic Review. Acta Derm Venereol 2020; 100: adv00160.