what is atopic dermatitis

What is Atopic Dermatitis? (Hint: The Most Common Type of Eczema)

So, you’re wondering, “What is atopic dermatitis?” Well, you’ve come to the right place! Atopic dermatitis is a very common skin condition that dermatologists treat. When you first hear it, the term may seem scarier than it actually is. So, let’s dive right in.

What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis (also known as AD) is the most common type of eczema. AD often appears as a red, itchy rash on the cheeks, arms and legs. It is very common in children, with most of them getting the disease during their first year of life. Finding the right pediatric dermatology care for this condition will be 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 the difference is between AD and 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 skin that becomes easily irritated, occupational skin diseases like hand dermatitis, skin infections like staph and herpes, and eye problems like eyelid dermatitis.

Though AD can be very common in infants, it can appear in older children and adults as well. It also looks different in terms of signs and symptoms for each age group.

AD in Infants

In infants, atopic dermatitis appears as a sudden rash that makes the skin dry, scaly, and very itchy. It can sometimes have areas that drain fluid.  The scalp and face are the most common places the patches appear, especially on the cheeks. 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.

AD in Children

In 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, no matter the 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.

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.

AD in Adults

When an adult suffers from this form of eczema, it can 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.

Treatment can only control, not cure, atopic dermatitis. 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 and swelling of the skin, clear an infection, and remove scaly bumps.

If you or a family member may have atopic dermatitis, or any skin concern, it’s important to see a board-certified dermatologist to diagnose and treat the condition. 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-lasting disease 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 see all of our locations and make an appointment. . You can also follow us on Facebook to see what’s new in the world of dermatology.

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