atopic dermatitis vs eczema

Atopic Dermatitis vs Eczema: Are They Different?

If you have an itchy red rash, you may be wondering if it’s caused by atopic dermatitis or eczema. While it’s important to visit your dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for any type of rash, there are ways to tell if your rash is caused by atopic dermatitis vs eczema. But first, let’s learn the difference between atopic dermatitis and eczema.

What is the Difference Between Atopic Dermatitis and Eczema?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between atopic dermatitis vs eczema because atopic dermatitis is actually the most common form of eczema. When you say your rash is eczema, you can actually mean a number of rashes (which we discuss later). So how can you tell the difference in a rash caused by atopic dermatitis or another type of eczema? Let’s find out.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis?

One of the main ways to tell the difference between different types of eczema is to look at the different eczema causes, and treatment will vary slightly depending on the type of eczema that has caused your rash. While there isn’t a specific cause for atopic dermatitis, we do know that having asthma, hay fever, or a family history of atopic dermatitis can increase your risk of developing it. Other types of eczema can be caused by irritants, allergens, a skin injury, poor circulation, or a history of other types of eczema.

Another way to tell the difference in atopic dermatitis vs eczema is how your rash looks. The rash caused by atopic dermatitis is dry, scaly, and very itchy. Eventually it will become bumpy. Other types of eczema cause rashes that can result in extremely itchy blisters, sores that weep fluid, or have a white crusty surface.

Knowing how atopic dermatitis symptoms look at different ages can help you better identify your rash as atopic dermatitis vs eczema, especially since atopic dermatitis symptoms appear differently depending on your age. Atopic dermatitis in children often appears as an itchy and scaly rash, though it can become bumpy and change colors (either becoming lighter or darker based on skin tone). Other symptoms to keep in mind are severe itching, swelling, and thickened skin. 

When adults have atopic dermatitis flare ups, the rash often covers large areas of the body, typically centering around creases, like the elbows, knees, and neck. The rash is scaly, but like atopic dermatitis in children, it can become bumpy, thickened, and lighten or darken in color.

What Triggers Atopic Dermatitis?

Triggers for atopic dermatitis are often physical irritants, allergens, and stress. Physical irritants often found in your house include wool, synthetic fibers, harsh soaps and detergents, and cleaning supplies. Dust and cigarette smoke can sometimes cause flare ups as well.

Allergies are also a common trigger for atopic dermatitis. Common environmental allergies include dust mites, animal-dander, pollen, and mold. Food allergies can also cause an atopic dermatitis flare up. Typical food allergies that can be a trigger are wheat, soy, milk, seafood, peanuts, and eggs.

The weather can also cause an atopic dermatitis flare up. Heat, humidity, and temperature, as well as a sunburn, can cause a flare up. This is often due to your skin lacking moisture in these circumstances. 

Stress very often triggers atopic dermatitis. Unfortunately, a flare up often results in more stress, which can lead to flare ups lasting for an extended period of time if not treated. 

Will Atopic Dermatitis Go Away?

Most cases of atopic dermatitis occur in children, with flare ups improving for half of all children affected. There is no cure for this skin condition, but with the proper atopic dermatitis treatment and medication, flare ups can become less prevalent.

There are many ways to manage your atopic dermatitis, including at-home remedies. At-home remedies often recommended by dermatologists include moisturizing your skin throughout the day (especially after a shower), taking warm showers (instead of using hot water), and using a humidifier. As you learn your triggers, you can also avoid them as much as possible to prevent flare ups.

It may be disheartening to hear that atopic dermatitis does not go away, but it is important to remember that atopic dermatitis is not contagious and is not life-threatening.

5 Other Types of Eczema

There are actually six different types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. We’ve already covered atopic dermatitis, but let’s talk a bit about the other types of eczema.

1. Contact Dermatitis

This type of eczema is an allergic reaction. It’s itchy with a red rash that is caused by an irritant or allergen, most often cosmetics, laundry detergent, or plants. If you can avoid the irritant or allergen, your rash should clear up within four weeks.

2. Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema causes small, extremely itchy blisters. These blisters are more likely to develop during the spring allergy season, especially if you have seasonal allergies. Your rash can easily become infected because of how itchy this rash is, so refrain from scratching as much as possible.

3. Nummular Eczema

Tiny red spots and blister-like sores characterize the rash caused by nummular eczema. This type of eczema typically occurs after a skin injury, like a burn or insect bite. 

4. Seborrheic Dermatitis

The rash caused by this type of eczema is reddish, swollen, and has a white or yellowish crusty surface that can appear greasy. The most common form of seborrheic dermatitis is cradle cap, most often found in infants. 

5. Stasis Dermatitis

Poor circulation can lead to stasis dermatitis. Early signs include swelling that lessens overnight and varicose veins. Open sores can begin to appear on the tops of the feet and on the lower legs if not properly treated.

If you are having trouble identifying your rash as atopic dermatitis vs eczema, schedule an appointment with our team here at Vujevich Dermatology Associates. You can reach us at 412-429-2570 or visit our contact page to book your appointment. You can also follow us on Facebook to see what’s new in the world of dermatology. 

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