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Most Frequently Asked Questions About Atopic Eczema

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Atopic Eczema

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition and is the most common type of eczema. It is also known as atopic eczema. AD most commonly occurs in children, with 90% of cases occurring before the age of 5. While there is no cure for atopic dermatitis there are periods where the skin symptoms are worse (known as flares) and periods where the skin symptoms get better known as remission).

Read more about atopic dermatitis.

What are some basic facts?

Atopic dermatitis is a commonly occurring condition and can have different levels of severity. AD occurs equally in women and men. In the United States, approximately 30% of people are affected by the condition. While it is more common for atopic dermatitis to occur in infancy and childhood, about 5% of cases begin in adulthood. There is a higher prevalence of eczema among individuals who reside in urban environments (cities).

Read more basic facts and statistics about atopic dermatitis.

How is it different from other skin diseases?

Atopic dermatitis can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions like psoriasis. The symptoms of psoriasis are scaly thick patches which will have well-defined borders, while AD causes a dry and scaley (but not raised) rash. AD may also present with weepy sores (blisters that ooze) and small bumps that look similar to pimples (papules). One of the key characteristics that defines AD is the intense itch it causes. Psoriasis may cause mild itching, but the severity of itch is associated with AD.

There are also other types of dermatitis such as contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.

Read more about how other types of dermatitis.

What are risk factors for atopic dermatitis?

There are several factors that have been identified that increase a person’s risk of developing atopic dermatitis (AD), including:

  • Having a family history of atopic dermatitis or other atopy (atopy refers to the genetic tendency to developing allergic diseases, like asthma or seasonal allergies)
  • Having a personal history of atopy
  • Where a person lives
  • Gender
  • Mother’s age at child’s birth
  • Socioeconomic status

Read more about risk factors for atopic dermatitis.

How is atopic dermatitis diagnosed?

AD is diagnosed based a physical exam done by a medical professional and history of the symptoms the individual is experiencing. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has provided diagnostic guidelines to help doctors properly diagnose AD.

The essential features of the AAD’s diagnostic guidelines for AD are the presence of pruritus, or itching and eczema or inflamed skin that has typical age-specific patterns and a chronic or relapsing history.

Read more about how atopic dermatitis is diagnosed and tests that may be part of diagnosing atopic eczema.

What are common symptoms?

Rash or patches of dry, scaly skin that occur in patterns based on the age of the individual, changes in skin color, weepy sores, thickened skin, papules, blisters or vesicles, as well as symptoms that impact the ears and the eyes.

Learn more about common symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

How is atopic eczema treated?

Treatment goals for atopic dermatitis may include symptoms relief, reducing the inflammatory response, repairing and keeping a healthy skin barrier, controlling the intense itch and managing triggers. There are both over-the-counter treatments that are available to help with some of the symptoms of AD. There are also prescription medication options that a medical professional can prescribe to help manage and treat AD.

Phototherapy can be a treatment option for some and some choose complementary and alternative treatment options that may help with symptom relief and quality of life.

Read more about managing symptoms and treatment options here.

Can atopic dermatitis be cured?

While there is currently no cure for atopic dermatitis people may experience periods of remission where they are clear from symptoms. While some people experience remission as they age, the majority of children with AD have persistent disease into their second decade of life or longer. One longitudinal study found that by age 20, 50% of people with AD reported at least one six-month period of remission.1

Read more about atopic eczema myths and facts here.

Terms to know:

You might also want to check out this basic “glossary” of terms that is important to know if you have atopic dermatitis.

Margolis JS, Abuabara K, Bilker W, Hoffstad O, Margolis DJ. Persistence of mild to moderate Atopic Dermatitis. JAMA dermatology. 2014;150(6):593-600. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.10271.