What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Mary McMahon

Atopic dermatitis is an extremely common form of skin irritation or dermatitis which is also known as eczema. Babies are especially prone to developing atopic dermatitis, but it can be observed in people of all ages, and once someone has experienced one outbreak, future outbreaks are more likely. This condition cannot be cured, but it can be managed, and some measures can be taken to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.

Atopic dermatitis causes rashes and itchiness.
Atopic dermatitis causes rashes and itchiness.

This condition is characterized by atopy, a term used to describe hypersensitivity to allergens like foods, dander, pollen, and so forth. People with atopy can develop allergic reactions even when they don't come into direct contact with an allergen. For example, someone allergic to corn could get atopic dermatitis from eating corn, handling corn products, or even traveling in an area where corn is blooming.

Severe itchy skin may be a sign of atopic dermatitis.
Severe itchy skin may be a sign of atopic dermatitis.

The skin irritation usually starts as an itch. Then, the skin turns red and flaky. It may crack and ooze, and the skin can darken or lighten as the reaction continues. In some cases, scabs will develop as the skin is torn open and it attempts to heal itself. Atopic dermatitis is especially common on the hands, feet, face, and folds of the skin.

Drugs such as cortisone can be used to manage the severity of the reaction and to ease the itching. Topical creams, injections, and oral medications can all be utilized in treatment for this form of dermatitis. In patients with a history of atopic dermatitis, allergy testing may be recommended to determine what the patient is allergic to, so that he or she can avoid it in the future. Allergy avoidance can include controlling diet, being careful about which cosmetics are used, and so forth.

Dry skin can also serious compound atopic dermatitis. After hand washing and showering, the skin should be dried thoroughly by gently patting with an absorbent towel, and then moisturized to help the skin retain moisture. Handwashing products which include moisturizers are often recommended for people who experience atopic dermatitis so that they don't dry their skin out with soap, and people may also be encouraged to wear loose clothing in affected areas, avoid excessive sunlight, and be careful about exposure to chemicals and unknown substances.

It is a good idea to seek treatment with a doctor for atopic dermatitis. The doctor may have treatment recommendations to make the patient more comfortable, and he or she can rule out skin conditions which look similar as a cause, ensuring that the patient gets the right care.

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