Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a hereditary and chronic skin disorder that mostly affects infants or very young children, and may last until the child reaches adolescence or adulthood. Eczema causes the skin to itch, turn red, and flake.
Parents with eczema are more likely to have children with eczema. Different triggers can make eczema worse, including environmental irritants, allergies, and stress.
The condition tends to flare up during times of stress, when the temperature is extremely high or low, when the patient has a bacterial infection, or when the skin is irritated by fabrics (wool) or detergents. Of children who have eczema, 65 percent will show signs of eczema in the first year of life and 90 percent will show signs of eczema within the first 5 years.
The distribution of eczema may change with age. In infants and young children, eczema is usually located on the face, outside of the elbows, and on the knees. In older children and adults, eczema tends to be on the hands and feet, the arms, and on the back of the knees. The following are the most common symptoms of eczema. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
A thickening of the skin (with chronic eczema)
Excessive rubbing and scratching can tear the skin and result in an infection. The symptoms of eczema may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Atopic dermatitis is very common. Over 15 million American adults and children have atopic dermatitis. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates that at least 20 percent of infants and children experience symptoms of atopic dermatitis. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for eczema may include the following:
Specific treatment for eczema will be determined by your physician based on:
Your opinion or preference
There is no cure for eczema. The goals of treatment are to reduce itching and inflammation of the skin, moisturize the skin, and prevent infection.
The following are suggestions for the management of eczema:
Your physician may also prescribe medications in severe cases. The following medications are most commonly used to treat eczema: