Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is an intensely itchy chronic allergic skin rash that usually is red, swollen, bumpy, patchy, and scaly. In early stages, the skin may ooze or blister and in later stages, the skin is commonly dry and thick. It commonly affects the face, neck, front of elbows and back of knees, but can affect any part of the body as well.
Ten to 20 percent of children and 1 to 3 percent of adults are affected, with about 80 percent developing the disease before age 5. Most patients have a personal or family history of atopy, with about 80% developing asthma and/or allergic rhinitis ("hay fever"). The itching associated with the condition usually is worse in the early evening and at night. Scratching worsens the condition and can lead to infection.
What are the causes and triggers?
The condition can be triggered by various irritants and allergens, such as soaps, detergents, foods, chemicals, pollen, dust mite, pets, wool clothing, temperature/humidity/sweating, and stress.
How is Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosed?
A comprehensive history and examination of the skin is necessary in diagnosing atopic dermatitis. To determine possible triggers, various tests may be essential. Allergy testing for pollens, dust mite and foods may be helpful.
How is Atopic Dermatitis treated?
The primary goal is to keep the skin well hydrated by frequent application of emollients or moisturizers and decrease scratching. Patients should avoid triggers such as certain foods, dust mites, pollen, strong soaps or detergents and irritating clothes.
Medications may help to decrease the inflammation and itch including topical anti-itch or anti-inflammatory medications, such as topical steroids or nonsteroidals, cold compresses, oral antihistamines, or calcineurin inhibitors.
Severe disease may require oral medication, antibiotics for secondary infections, wet dressings, allergy shots and other therapies.
An allergist or dermatologist can assist patients to treat, relieve, and control chronic and persistent eruptions.