What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis , sometimes called eczema, is a
skin problem that causes dry skin, intense itching, and
then a red, raised rash. It's most common in babies and children. It cannot be spread from person to person.
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. For some people, atopic dermatitis may be a long-lasting (chronic) skin problem that requires more than one treatment.
What causes atopic dermatitis?
The cause of
atopic dermatitis isn't clear, but it affects your skin's ability to hold moisture. Your skin becomes dry, itchy, and easily irritated.
Most people who have atopic dermatitis
have a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or asthma.
Things that may make
atopic dermatitis worse include:
- Allergens, such as
dust mites or
- Harsh soaps or
- Weather changes, especially dry and cold.
- Certain foods, such as
eggs, peanuts, milk, wheat, fish, or soy products, if you are allergic to them. Food allergies trigger atopic dermatitis more commonly in babies and children than in adults.
- Skin infection.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of atopic
dermatitis is itching, followed by rash. The rash is red and patchy. It 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
Mild atopic dermatitis affects a small area of skin, isn't very itchy, and usually goes away with moisturizer. Severe atopic dermatitis covers a large area of skin that is very itchy and doesn't go away with moisturizer.
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 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.
may advise allergy testing to find the things that trigger the rash. Allergy
tests can be done by an allergist (immunologist) or dermatologist.
How is it treated?
Mild atopic dermatitis can be treated at home.
- Moisturize often. Creams and ointments work better than lotions.
- Avoid things that trigger rashes, such as harsh soaps and
detergents, dander, and any other things you are allergic to.
Control scratching. You may want to cover the rash with a bandage to keep from
rubbing it. Put mittens or cotton socks on your baby's hands to help prevent
him or her from scratching.
- Use medicine prescribed by your
- Bathe with lukewarm water and for short
But if your symptoms are bothering you and aren't getting better, see your doctor. Getting medical treatment early may keep your symptoms from getting worse.
In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe pills or give
you a shot to stop the itching. Or you may get ultraviolet (UV) light treatment
at a clinic or doctor's office.
Frequently Asked Questions