Atopic dermatitis is one of about eight
different types of the chronic, non-infectious skin condition called eczema. When
people talk about “severe eczema,” they’re usually referring to atopic dermatitis.
And the symptoms can be very challenging to cope with.
Signs of Atopic Dermatitis https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5467x3657%2B4%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F1f%2F9a%2F679bb3bf4e91a9f20c46180fc623%2Fimage-gettyimages-534561728.jpg
People with mild-to-moderate eczema experience
some itching, but people with severe eczema tend to experience much more
intense, even uncontrollable itching. In fact, their skin itches so much they
scratch it until it bleeds--a phenomenon dubbed the “itch-scratch cycle.” These
dry, itchy spots can develop anywhere, but they’re especially common in places
like the crook of your arms, the back of your knees, your neck and your face.
1. Severe Itching https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F9d%2F46%2Fb6422abb4cd782df8e342ff1c010%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-481826580.jpg
Red, dry, irritated skin is common in most cases
of eczema. But when your skin is extra-dry and extra-red and extra-irritated,
you know you’re dealing with a much more severe case. It may also be spread out
over larger areas.
2. Redness and Dryness https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F86%2F64%2F243b0d574a3b864baad6c635b594%2Fimage-getty-173693598.jpg
Another of the most common severe eczema signs
is blistering or weeping skin. When you have a flare-up of atopic dermatitis,
it can cause sores or blisters to form. Often, those blisters then break open,
With all the scratching and rubbing that comes
with an itchy case of severe eczema, it’s common over time to develop thick,
raised patches of skin. These patches of skin often feel and look leathery. Your
skin may feel rougher overall, too.
4. Thick Patches of Skin https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1490x997%2B9%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F09%2Fcb%2F3ed340674458aeb5ef94718c2f71%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-900352584.jpg
Most mild-to-moderate cases of eczema respond
fairly well to the use of topical treatments like gentle moisturizers on a
daily basis along with corticosteroid creams or ointments for flare-ups. When
your skin stops responding well to those treatments, it can be a sign your
eczema has developed into a more severe case.
5. Lack of Response to Topical Treatment https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1491x997%2B8%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F14%2F39%2F8d41263a44b19037a28c17043923%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-null.jpg
When your doctor begins talking about
second-line treatments, you know your eczema is a more serious condition. Your
doctor may want to see how you respond to oral or injected systemic
corticosteroids or light therapy. Another possible option is a combination
treatment regimen of light therapy and a light-sensitive drug called psoralen.
There’s also a new biologic drug on the market called dupilumab (Dupixent) that
can be used to treat severe eczema in people who haven’t had luck with other
Atopic dermatitis tends to develop in young
children and babies--and is less common in adults. But when a child’s eczema
symptoms persist into adulthood, they are often more severe, although the
symptoms can cycle back and forth.
7. Symptoms Persist into Adulthood https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Ffe%2F20%2F83e9201b489a8131f51b3f12bfae%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-732735283.jpg
Someone who’s not familiar with severe eczema
might be confused by this sign, but anyone who suffers from the condition knows
why sleeplessness is a problem. The severe itching prevents many people with
atopic dermatitis from sleeping well at night.