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Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common skin problems today affecting approximately 10% of children and 1% of adults. It is a form of eczema, a condition which causes a recurrent skin rash which is red, inflamed and very itchy. Overall, eczema patients have very dry skin which can become thickened and dark in areas where the rash has been persistent.
Unfortunately, research surrounding the cause of eczema is currently inconclusive. While there is no concrete answer, atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, is believed to be a response to an allergen or irritant within the body. Flare-ups can occur when in contact with these triggers. Eczema is believed to be caused by factors that are out of our control including: family history of asthma, atopic dermatitis, or hay fever, environment factors and immune system dysfunction.
Atopic dermatitis usually begins during infancy or early childhood. Symptoms include itchy, red patches on the skin that may crust, scale or ooze. These can develop as early as between the ages of two to twelve months and generally will appear on the face, torso and outside of the arms and legs.
When the child reaches two to four years of age, the rash may affect the elbow and knee creases, neck, wrists, ankles and feet. Clusters of red or flesh colored bumps or scaly patches will appear in these areas. Skin may also become drier, thicker and more noticeably creased.
Once the patient reaches adolescence, the rash may become more predominant on the sides of the neck, hands, feet and face. Accentuated creasing of the skin is also more common at this stage.
Bacterial infections frequently occur with this disorder during all its stages due to increased permeability of the skin barrier. These infections may cause crusting, oozing and ulcers to develop on the skin.
Atopic dermatitis can be diagnosed by a thorough examination by a medical professional. While it is frequently found in children, atopic dermatitis can occur at any age.
Though there is no cure, about 60 to 80% of children outgrow the disorder and treatment plans are available that make the ailment manageable while symptoms persist. First, it’s important to re-hydrate your skin with moisturize or creams that control itching and irritation. If your symptoms continue, consult your doctor about taking prescribed medication to control your inflammation and fight infection. Disease severity, older age at onset and being female are risk factors for more persistent cases.