As much as 10 percent of the population has a moderate to severe form of atopic dermatitis (AD). This unpleasant, uncomfortable skin condition affects adults and children alike, with the onset of symptoms usually occurring early in life.
Although there’s no cure for AD, the link between the prevalence of oxidative stress and the disease may provide answers in terms of therapeutic treatments.
What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition generally characterized by dry, itchy skin. It’s most commonly referred to as eczema, which is actually an umbrella term for several related skin conditions. As an atopic, or “allergic reaction” disease, AD is classified in the same way as hay fever or asthma.
AD can occur at any age, and there are many physical and internal factors that can cause a flare-up. The associated inflammation leads to increased blood flow to the affected area and an irresistible urge to itch. Flares are part of the itch-scratch cycle that’s a lifelong struggle for those with AD. While scratching feels good in the moment, it can lead to even more inflammation and potential skin infection.
There are several types of atopic dermatitis, all of which have an impact on a person’s overall comfort and quality of life. Like other types of eczema, AD causes chronic itching and redness, but at an even more severe level.
Researchers are continuing to study how eczema works and why so many people suffer from it. Unfortunately, there’s no complete cure for this disease, but there are ways to calm the skin and reduce scratching and discomfort.
Oxidative stress often manifests in skin conditions
Studies have shown that oxidative stress is one of the most important contributors to AD. While the exact development of AD is complex and not fully understood, oxidative stress has been implicated in the condition by promoting tissue inflammation. Inflammation features prominently in AD, and scientists believe that exploring the link between inflammation and oxidative stress in regard to AD will enhance understanding and treatment of the disease.
There are many other skin conditions associated with oxidative stress. Some of them are simply cosmetic. Oxidative stress is believed to cause premature skin aging, including wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. More seriously, oxidative stress is implicated in all stages of carcinogenesis.
Studies have shown that balancing free radicals, ROS, may be a helpful strategy linked to prevention and therapy of serious skin diseases.
Free radical control reduces oxidative stress
Limiting the body’s free radical production has been shown to reduce oxidative stress from taking hold and damaging healthy cells. Your body will and should always have some free radicals—they occur naturally in the body as a result of diet, exercise and even the environment in which you live. Too many free radicals are a problem, as they search for stable molecules in cells to bond to. As they pair with molecules and damage stable cells, free radicals contribute to the onset of oxidative stress. Maintaining a healthy balance of free radicals and antioxidants is key to preventing oxidative stress from harming the body.
There are a whole host of other benefits to boosting antioxidant levels to fight free radicals. Beyond promoting healthy skin, keeping free radicals in check can potentially prevent the onset of serious diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Protecting your skin through antioxidant intake
One of the best ways to protect the health and appearance of your skin is by following an antioxidant-rich diet. In particular, consuming more whole foods that contain Vitamin E can be a great defense against oxidative stress and the inflammation that typically accompanies it.
Aim to eat whole foods including leafy green vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and pressed oils. Keep in mind that the best sources of Vitamin E are also typically high in fat. If you’re following a fat-conscious diet, supplementing may be a better option, but always talk to your doctor first before making any decisions.
Creams, supplements and diet all play a role in reducing AD
While AD can’t be cured, there are a variety of methods for alleviating symptoms, and all of them focus on calming the skin. Treatments range from over-the-counter skin care options to prescription medications, supplements and even a change in diet.
Medications may be effective against the itch-scratch cycle of AD, but there are natural ways to achieve the same effect. The best preventive measure is moisturizing the skin with an antioxidant-rich cream or lotion. Look for all-natural products that prominently feature Vitamin E as an active ingredient. Supplementing with Vitamin E is another potential option, giving your body a boost in antioxidants that can fight effectively against inflammation. Always talk to your doctor first and discover how Vitamin E can play a role in your treatment plan against AD.