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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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