what is atopic dermatitis

What to Know about Atopic Dermatitis and Childhood Eczema

If  your little one has a red, itchy rash that won’t go away, they may be experiencing a form of eczema that often appears during early childhood, also known as atopic dermatitis. Although the name sounds a little intimidating, it’s not a cause for concern. Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that is often seen by pediatric dermatologists in young children, and although the rash can cause some discomfort, there are many treatment options available to help manage symptoms.

What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis (also known as AD) is the most common type of eczema, often appearing as a red, itchy rash on the cheeks, arms and legs. It is very common in children affecting up to 25% of children, especially babies, who often develop the condition during their first year of life. Finding the right pediatric dermatology care for this condition is an important step if your child develops AD.

Atopic Dermatitis and Other Types of Eczema

Now that we’ve answered your question, “What is atopic dermatitis?” you might be wondering what sets AD apart from other types of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is a specific type of eczema that is often associated with a history of asthma or seasonal allergies.

It is important to identify if your child has AD because they may experience several different sensitivities for the rest of their lives. These sensitivities can include dry or easily irritated skin, occupational skin diseases like hand dermatitis, skin infections like staph and herpes, and eye problems like eyelid dermatitis.

Although AD can be very common in infants, it can appear in older children and adults as well. It also may display signs and symptoms differently for each age group.

  • Atopic Dermatitis in Infants

In infants, atopic dermatitis appears as a sudden rash that makes the skin dry, scaly, and very itchy. It may sometimes have areas that drain fluid. The scalp, face, and especially the cheeks are the most common places the patches appear. Babies with AD may have trouble sleeping and may often rub their skin on bedding or carpeting to relieve the itch. It’s important to note that scratching can lead to a skin infection. This means that proper treatment and good skin care should be put into practice as soon as possible to protect your child’s skin from further damage.

  • Atopic Dermatitis in Children

In older children, atopic dermatitis can begin between 2 years of age and puberty.  It often appears as scaly areas in the creases of the body such as the elbows, knees, neck, wrists, and ankles. In time, the rash can look bumpy, lighten or darken in color, and become thickened. For a lot of children, regardless of age, the itch from AD can be so intense that they can’t sleep. Proper treatment and good skin care can help relieve that type of discomfort.

  • Atopic Dermatitis in Adults

About 90 percent of people with atopic dermatitis develop the condition before the age of five. Although it’s rare for atopic dermatitis to happen in adulthood, it can still happen.

When an adult suffers from this form of eczema, it may appear in the creases of the elbows, knees, and neck, cover a large portion of the body. It can be especially severe around the eyes. About half of the people who have AD during their childhood will have milder symptoms into adulthood.

Causes of Atopic Dermatitis

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. We do know that some children have a greater risk of getting AD if they have asthma, hay fever, or family members with this condition. It is important to know, however, that atopic dermatitis is not contagious.

Although treatment cannot fully cure atopic dermatitis, it can help to control it. An eczema treatment plan may include medicine, skin care, and lifestyle changes, which can help prevent flare-ups.  Medicine and other therapies can help control itching, reduce redness or swelling, clear an infection, and remove scaly bumps.

Treatment for Atopic Dermatitis

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms of AD, or have other skin concerns, it’s important to see a board-certified dermatologist to diagnose and treat atopic dermatitis. At Vujevich Dermatology Associates, we treat a variety of common pediatric skin conditions as well as many medical dermatology conditions. We can diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan tailored to you or your child’s needs. Many people experience eczema as a long-term skin condition and have seen many benefits of treatment.

Vujevich Dermatology Associates offers medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology from some of the most highly trained physicians and clinicians in the greater Pittsburgh area. You can reach our team at 412-429-2570 or visit our contact page to make an appointment at any of our locations in Mt. Lebanon, Washington, and Pleasant Hills. You can also follow us on Facebook to see what’s new in the world of dermatology.

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