What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a common skin condition caused by an overactive immune system that makes your skin red and itchy, especially the skin of the faces, as well as inside the elbows and behind the knees. Atopic dermatitis can occur in patients at any age.
How common is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age, but more frequently in children than adults. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?
The common symptoms of atopic dermatitis are:
- Itching, from mild to severe, especially at night;
- Red to brownish-gray patches, especially on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows and knees, and in infants, the face and scalp;
- Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched;
- Thickened, cracked, dry, scaly skin;
- Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Uncomfortable feeling (sleepless or distraction of your daily routines) because of the uncommon;
- Pain on a skin area;
- Infection of skin (red streaks, pus, yellow scabs);
- Tried self-care for your skin but not effective;
- Uncommon symptoms on eyes or vision caused by the skin condition.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes atopic dermatitis?
No exact cause of atopic dermatitis (eczema) is known. Eczema is likely related to a mix of factors:
- Dry, irritable skin, which reduces the skin’s ability to be an effective barrier.
- A gene variation that affects the skin’s barrier function.
- Immune system dysfunction.
- Bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus on the skin that creates a film that blocks sweat glands.
- Environmental conditions.
What increases my risk for atopic dermatitis?
There are many risk factors for atopic dermatitis, such as:
- Personal or family history of eczema, allergies, hay fever or asthma.
- Being a healthcare worker, which is linked to hand dermatitis.
- Living in urban areas.
- Being African-American.
- Having parents with a high level of education.
- Attending child care.
- Having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is atopic dermatitis diagnosed?
No specific lab test is needed to identify atopic dermatitis (eczema). Atopic dermatitis is commonly diagnosed by examining your skin and reviewing your medical history. Sometimes, patch testing or other tests can be used to rule out other skin diseases or identify conditions that accompany your eczema.
How is atopic dermatitis treated?
There is no specific treatment for atopic dermatitis. Some medications can be used to reduce the uncomfortable feeling caused by the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, including:
- Creams that control itching and inflammation.
- Creams that help repair the skin, including calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel).
- Drugs to fight infection.
- Oral anti-itch drugs.
- Oral or injected drugs that control inflammation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage atopic dermatitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with atopic dermatitis:
- Take a bleach bath.
- Moisturize your skin at least twice a day.
- Avoid scratching.
- Apply cool, wet compresses.
- Take a warm bath.
- Choose mild soaps without dyes or perfumes.
- Use a humidifier.
- Wear cool, smooth-textured cotton clothing.
- Treat stress and anxiety.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: October 27, 2016 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019
Atopic dermatitis. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/tc/atopic-dermatitis-topic-overview#1. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Atopic dermatitis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eczema/basics/definition/con-20032073. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Atopic dermatitis. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Eczema-(atopic)/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed October 6, 2016.