What You Need to Know About Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema. It commonly develops in childhood, before five years of age, but it can occur at any age. The word “atopic” comes from the Greek word meaning “strange”, and the word “dermatitis” means inflammation, which occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen.

It is estimated 10.2% of adults and 10.7% of children have this condition, and 90% of patients get it before the age of five. There is no current cure, but clinics like RAO Dermatology can assist with the itching and getting other symptoms under control.


The first symptom of dermatitis is itchy, dry skin appearing on the feet, hands, ankles, neck, upper chest, the elbow or knee crease, and eyelids. It may form a bubbly scalp or cheek rash on infants, and they may have trouble sleeping.

It may also produce small, elevated bumps called keratosis pilaris on the arms, face, and thighs that seep fluid when scratched. Adults and children can develop very dry skin, darker or lighter skin or leathery patches called lichenification. The leathery skin may swell and get sensitive from scratching, a symptom referred to as lichen complex, and dark under eye circles could result from allergies.


Atopic dermatitis appears to have a genetic cause, so the family would need to have a hay fever, asthma, or eczema history. It would be rare for a person to get diagnosed with atopic dermatitis without a family history, or without having been diagnosed as a child. Evidence suggests that people with this condition have a low resistance to skin irritation, causing drier skin.

Females, higher social classes, and those who live in developed countries or move to colder climates are more likely to develop the condition. Certain foods may cause flares in children, but it should be discussed with a doctor first before eliminating foods. Other causes include long showers, stress, strenuous activity, wool, and irritants like soaps, smoke, and dirt.


One simple treatment is to hydrate the skin daily with natural cleansers after a bath or shower, and moisturizing the skin twice daily. Avoid deodorant soaps and anti-bacterial cleansers that may dry the skin.

Oral antihistamines or topical steroids may be prescribed by the experts at RAO Dermatology to stop the scratching, and petroleum jelly could prevent the condition in infants. Taking shorter showers, reducing stress, and identifying triggers can help control symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis is not contagious, but it may cause more severe symptoms such as trouble sleeping, skin discharges, fever, or red streaks protruding from the rash. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation to begin devising an effective treatment plan.

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