Atopic Dermatitis - Symptoms
The main symptom of
atopic dermatitis is itching. The itching can be
severe and persistent, especially at night. Scratching the affected area of
skin usually causes a rash. The rash is red and patchy and may be long-lasting
(chronic) or come and go (recurring). The rash may:
- Develop fluid-filled sores that can ooze fluid
or crust over. This can happen when the skin is rubbed or scratched or if a
skin infection is present. This is known as an acute (sudden or of short
duration), oozing rash.
- Be scaly and dry, red, and itchy. This is known as a subacute
- Become tough and thick from constant
The severity of symptoms depends on how large an area of
skin is affected, how much you scratch the rash, and whether a secondary
infection develops. Mild atopic dermatitis usually involves a small area of
skin that does not itch much and goes away with adequate moisturizing. Severe
atopic dermatitis usually involves a large area of skin that is very itchy and
does not go away with moisturizing.
The usual location of the
rash on the body varies by age group.
Infants (ages 2 months to 2 years)
- The areas most commonly affected are the
face, scalp, neck, arms and legs (especially the front of the knees and the
back of the elbows), and trunk. The rash usually does not appear in the diaper
area. It is most commonly seen in babies during the winter months as dry, red,
scaling areas on the baby's cheeks. See a picture of
atopic dermatitis in an infant.
- The rash is often crusted or oozes
- Rubbing and scratching can lead to frequent
Children (ages 2 years to 11 years)
- The symptoms may appear for the first time or
may be a continuation of the infant phase.
- The rash occurs
primarily on the back of the legs and arms, on the neck, and in areas that
bend, such as the back of the knees and the inside of the elbows.
- The rash is usually dry. But it may go through stages from an
acute oozing rash to a subacute red, dry rash to a chronic rash that causes the
skin to thicken (lichenification). Lichenification often occurs after the rash
- Rubbing and scratching can lead to infections.
Adolescents and adults
- Atopic dermatitis often improves as you get
- The areas affected by atopic dermatitis are usually small
and commonly include places that bend, such as the neck, the back of the knees,
and the inside of the elbows. Rashes can also affect the face, wrists, and
forearms. Rashes are rare in the groin area.
other conditions with similar symptoms or conditions that may be associated
with atopic dermatitis, such as dry skin (xerosis),
ringworm, and poison ivy and other forms of