Atopic Dermatitis

Also known as: dermatitis, eczema.

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis (often called eczema) is a relapsing, often chronic skin condition that frequently presents in approximately 10% of children in the first 6 months to 5 years of life characterized by mild to severe, itchiness, redness, skin thickening, dry skin and flaking. Boys and girls, and children of all races are equally affected. It's appearance can vary depending on the age of the infant/child.

What causes atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis runs in families (genetic) who have hay fever, food allergies and asthma. Environmental factors also play a role as there are a number "triggers" which can make it worse (allergies, sweating, cigarette smoke, environmental stress).

It appears that the skin of children with atopic dermatitis has an inability to being a good barrier to prevent moisture loss. Early infections, exposure in day care, and other environmental situations where the baby is more exposed to bacteria appears to decrease the likelihood of atopic dermatitis occurring.

What are the signs/symptoms of atopic dermatitis?

A itchy red rash which may have blisters or bumps and be found on the face and scalp; front of elbows and behind the knees; wrists and hands are typical for atopic dermatitis. A cycle of itch-scratch-itch often increase skin inflammation which triggers a greater need to scratch.

What are atopic dermatitis care options?

The most important objective in treatment is to keep the skin moist. A large variety of topical bath soaps/oils/creams/solutions are available either over-the-counter or by prescription.

Some children will also need oral drugs and/or medications/immunotherapy or ultraviolet light therapy to treat the irritated skin. Nicklaus Children's Hospital’s Specialist Dermatology team will help you in all treatment decisions.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: May 05, 2021 02:00 PM

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