A study published in September's edition of the journal Pediatrics traces the trend.
The study shows that there were 620,000 pediatric visits for atopic dermatitis in 1997. That number rose to 1.7 million pediatric visits in 2003 and dropped to 850,000 doctor visits in 2004.
Those figures are based on two large CDC databases that track medical care for children and teens.
The trend was stronger for African-American and Asian children than for white children, and for toddlers and young kids, compared with older children and teens.
The researchers -- who included dermatologist Karen Horii, MD, of Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. -- aren't sure what accounts for the trend.
Perhaps atopic dermatitis, which is already children's most common inflammatory skin disease, is becoming even more common. Or maybe doctors are getting better at diagnosing it, Horii's team suggests.
The 2003 peak in pediatric visits for atopic dermatitis may be linked to a new class of eczema drugs called topical calcineurin inhibitors that debuted that year. The buzz about those drugs may have prompted some parents to take their children to the pediatrician, the researchers speculate.
Because the data focus on doctor visits, not the number of patients, it's not clear how many kids had all those appointments with doctors. Some children may have had several appointments for their atopic dermatitis.