What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a
skin problem that causes dry skin, intense itching, and
then a red, raised rash. It cannot be spread from person to person.
For some people, atopic dermatitis may be a long-lasting (chronic) skin problem that requires more than one treatment.
dermatitis is most common in babies and children. Some children with atopic
dermatitis outgrow it or have milder cases as they get older. Also, a person may get atopic dermatitis as an adult.
Atopic dermatitis is sometimes called
eczema or atopic eczema. But atopic dermatitis is only
one of many types of eczema.
See a picture of
atopic dermatitis .
The cause of
atopic dermatitis is not clear, but it affects your skin's ability to hold moisture. Your skin becomes dry, itchy, and easily irritated.
People with atopic dermatitis have skin that is sensitive to irritants and dryness in the environment.
Most people who have atopic dermatitis
have a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma. The skin
inflammation that causes the atopic dermatitis rash is
thought to be a type of
Things that may make
atopic dermatitis worse include:
- Certain foods, such as
eggs, peanuts, milk, wheat, fish, or soy products. Food allergies trigger atopic dermatitis more commonly in babies and children than in adults.
- Allergens, such as
dust mites or
- Harsh soaps or
- Weather changes, especially dry and cold.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of atopic
dermatitis is itching, followed by rash. The rash is red and patchy and may be
long-lasting (chronic) or may come and go (recurring). Tiny bumps that look like little blisters may appear and ooze fluid or crust over. Scratching can cause the sores to
become infected. Over time, a recurring rash can lead to tough and thickened
People tend to get the rash on different parts of the body,
depending on their age. Common sites include the face, neck, arms, and legs.
Rashes in the groin area are rare.
How severe the symptoms are
depends on how large an area of skin is affected. It also depends on how much
you scratch the rash and whether the sores get infected. Mild atopic dermatitis
usually affects a small area of skin. It does not itch much and goes away with
enough moisturizing. Severe atopic dermatitis usually covers a large area of
skin that is very itchy. It does not go away with moisturizing.
How is atopic dermatitis diagnosed?
A doctor can
usually tell if you have atopic dermatitis by doing a physical exam and asking
questions about your past health. Some of the questions might be: Do allergies
run in your family? When did the itch first start? When did the rash first
appear? Checking to see what the rash looks like and where it is located will
help your doctor decide if you have atopic dermatitis.