What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a skin problem that causes dry skin, intense itching, and then a red, raised rash. It cannot be spread from person to person.
For some people, atopic dermatitis may be a long-lasting (chronic) skin problem that requires more than one treatment.
Atopic dermatitis is most common in babies and children. 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.
Atopic dermatitis is sometimes called or atopic eczema. But atopic dermatitis is only one of many types of eczema.
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What causes atopic dermatitis?
The cause ofatopic dermatitis is not clear, but it affects your skin's ability to hold moisture. Your skin becomes dry, itchy, and easily irritated.
People with atopic dermatitis have skin that is sensitive to irritants and dryness in the environment.
Most people who have atopic dermatitishave a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever () and asthma. The skin that causes the atopic dermatitis rash isthought to be a type of response.
Things that may makeatopic dermatitis worse include:
- Certain foods, such as eggs, peanuts, milk, wheat, fish, or soy products. Food allergies trigger atopic dermatitis more commonly in babies and children than in adults.
- , such as or .
- Harsh soaps or detergents.
- Weather changes, especially dry and cold.
- Skin infection.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of atopic dermatitis is itching, followed by rash. The rash is red and patchy and 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 skin.
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 severe the symptoms are depends on how large an area of skin is affected. It also depends on how much you scratch the rash and whether the sores get infected. Mild atopic dermatitis usually affects a small area of skin. It does not itch much and goes away with enough moisturizing. Severe atopic dermatitis usually covers a large area of skin that is very itchy. It does not go away with moisturizing.
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. Some of the questions might be: Do allergies run in your family? When did the itch first start? When did the rash first appear? Checking to see what the rash looks like and where it is located will help your doctor decide if you have atopic dermatitis.
Your doctor may advise allergy testing to find the things that trigger the rash. Allergy tests are done by an allergist (immunologist).
How is it treated?
Although atopic dermatitis is an ongoing problem, there are things you can do to control it.
- Moisturize often. Creams work better than lotions.
- Avoid things that trigger rashes, such as harsh soaps anddetergents, dander, and any other things you are allergic to.
- Control scratching. You may want to cover the rash with a bandage to keep fromrubbing it. Put mittens or cotton socks on your baby's hands to help preventhim or her from scratching.
- Use medicine prescribed by yourdoctor.
- Bathe with lukewarm water and for shortperiods.
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.
Can you prevent your baby from getting atopic dermatitis?
If you or other family members have atopic dermatitis or other allergies, there is a chance that your baby could get it. If possible, breast-feed your baby for at least 6 months to boost the and to help protect your baby.
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