What is Atopic Dermatitis?


Atopic dermatitis is also known as eczema. It is a skin condition that is most common in children but can occur at any age, making skin red and itchy. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition but usually only flares up on occasion with times of complete relief of symptoms. Symptoms can be so severe that they can sometimes keep people from sleeping or even going about their normal day. The signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary, here are a few to look for:

  • Patches on the skin that are pink or red, found mostly on the bends of the elbows, knees, and on feet, hands, ankles, neck, wrists, upper chest, eyelids, also on the face and scalp of infants
  • Severe itching especially at nighttime
  • Cracked, dry, scaly, thickened skin
  • Raised weepy bumps that are small and may crust over if they have been scratched
  • Sensitive skin made raw from scratching

Atopic dermatitis or eczema usually presents itself before the age of 5 and can continue into adolescent and adult years. Most people enjoy clear skin with periodic flare ups.

Agitators of Atopic Dermatitis

If a person has atopic dermatitis often they will also have a bacteria on their skin called Staphylococcus aureus. When the skin is broken and fluid is present the staph bacteria can multiply rapidly. Some other agitators that can worsen the symptoms of atopic dermatitis are:

  • Stress
  • Scratching
  • Dry skin caused by hot water
  • Sweat
  • Changes in humidity and heat
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Chemical cleaners such as detergents and soaps
  • Clothing such as wool
  • Pollen and dust
  • Air pollution
  • Smoke
  • Food allergens such as eggs, milk, and nuts

When atopic dermatitis is caused by allergens it is important to remove the allergen, even if it doesn’t clear the current condition it could help prevent flare ups in the future.

What is the Cause of Atopic Dermatitis?

An exact cause of atopic dermatitis or eczema is not known. There are several factors that are likely related to why people have this skin condition:

  • Poor immunity
  • Dry and irritable skin
  • Gene variation
  • Conditions of the environment
  • Bacteria on the skin

A person is at greater risk if there is a family history of atopic dermatitis or of allergies such as hay fever.