What is the difference between eczema
and atopic dermatitis?
The word “eczema” has a few meanings. It is a
general term that means a family of skin conditions that causes
the skin to become inflamed (swollen, irritated, and itchy). One
of the most common types of eczema is atopic
called “atopic eczema.” Sometimes
people use the word “eczema” when referring to atopic
What is atopic dermatitis?
dermatitis is a common type of eczema. Most (90%) of people
develop atopic dermatitis by age 5. Skin affected by atopic
dermatitis itches. This is probably because the skin has what
your dermatologist may call “barrier defects.” These barrier
defects allow things to irritate the skin more easily, and this
What does atopic dermatitis look
While atopic dermatitis
can look different
from person to person, everyone shares one common symptom. The
skin itches. In fact, atopic dermatitis usually begins with an
itch and is
often referred to as the “the itch that rashes.”
In infants, the rash generally
appears on the cheeks and around the mouth. By age 2, atopic
dermatitis most commonly occurs on the hands, wrists, arms, and
legs. You will often see atopic dermatitis in the creases of the
elbows and the bends of the knees by age 4. The most commonly
affected areas in children and adults are the face, neck, and
the insides of the elbows, back of the knees, and ankles.
Regardless of where the rash appears, it usually causes dry,
red, and extremely itchy patches of skin. The skin can become so
dry that it cracks and bleeds. Some people develop
blisters that weep and ooze. The
skin continues to itch. Long-term scratching can cause the skin
to thicken and develop a leathery texture. Your dermatologist
may call this thickening of the skin “lichenification.”
Will my child outgrow
While there is currently no way to
tell if a child will outgrow atopic dermatitis, most children
have greatly diminished symptoms by school age. About half (50%)
dermatitis completely fade by age 20. For others, atopic
dermatitis persists for life. For most adults, the signs and
symptoms are much milder than during childhood.
If your child has atopic dermatitis, it is important to see your
dermatologist. Treating atopic dermatitis can prevent it from
becoming more severe.
Is atopic dermatitis
A child cannot get atopic dermatitis from playing with another
child who has it. Your child cannot get atopic dermatitis from a
public bathroom or a swimming pool.
Atopic dermatitis is hereditary (passed from a parent to a child
through genes). Some parents pass the gene for atopic dermatitis
on without ever having atopic dermatitis.
My child has atopic
dermatitis. Some days her skin is calm; other days it flares.
Why does this happen?
In general, atopic dermatitis will come and go.
There are things you can do to help reduce flare-ups. Practicing
proper skin care and avoiding triggers can help tremendously. A
trigger is anything that irritates the skin and causes it to
itch. Triggers can vary from person to person.
Is there a cure for
While rapid advancements in medical research continue,
scientists do not expect to find a cure for atopic dermatitis
any time soon. Scientists believe that current research will
eventually lead to revolutionary new ways to diagnose, treat,
and perhaps even prevent atopic dermatitis.
people looking for relief from atopic dermatitis today, the best
advice continues to be:
lifestyle modifications to prevent flare-ups
a dermatologist for treatment
Follow the skin care practices recommended by your
medication as prescribed
Is atopic dermatitis an
While people with
atopic dermatitis have an increased risk for developing certain
allergic conditions such as a food allergy, hay fever, or
asthma, atopic dermatitis is not an allergy. Very rarely will
finding and eliminating an allergen such as a food eliminate the
atopic dermatitis. In fact, researchers are finding that early
exposure to allergens may actually help prevent atopic
Is atopic dermatitis
caused by nerves?
While stress can
trigger a flare-up, it does not actually cause atopic
dermatitis. Research shows that learning to manage emotions and
reduce stress can be effective ways to lessen the frequency and
intensity of flare-ups.
How is atopic dermatitis treated?
Treatment often begins with a medicine called a corticosteroid.
This medicine is applied to flaring skin to calm it quickly. To
maintain this remission, your dermatologist will recommend skin
care practices for people who have atopic dermatitis. These
include short daily baths and applying moisturizer or a similar
the itch, which can be severe, an antihistamine may be
prescribed. A skin infection is generally treated with an
the skin calm, a medicine called a calcineurin inhibitor or a
corticosteroid may be applied to the skin periodically. A
barrier repair cream also may be recommended. When these are
used as directed, they can provide safe and effective relief
from atopic dermatitis.
If the atopic dermatitis is severe, phototherapy (lasers and
other light treatments) and stronger medicines may be necessary
to control the atopic dermatitis.