Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, a skin condition that makes you itch and leaves red blotches, usually on your face, arms, and legs.
Causes of Atopic Dermatitis
Doctors aren’t sure what causes eczema. It seems to run in families, so if one of your parents or siblings has it, there may be a stronger chance that you or your child will have it, too.
Kids with it sometimes have someone in the family who has allergies, hay fever, or asthma.
Some experts think that makes them more likely to get eczema.
About half of kids who get it will also get hay fever or asthma.
Living somewhere that’s often cold or has a lot of pollution may increase your chances of getting it, as well.
Food allergies don’t cause atopic dermatitis.
But having atopic dermatitis may raise your risk for food allergies, such as to peanuts for example.
Atopic dermatitis isn’t contagious. You can’t catch it or give it to someone else. Learn more about the causes of atopic dermatitis.
Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis
Most people will have their first signs of eczema before they’re 5 years old. Infants may have red, crusted, scaly areas on their cheeks, scalp, or the front of their arms and legs.
Children and adults usually have very itchy, red rashes on the back of the neck and knees and in elbow creases.
You may also have small bumps and flaky skin. The rash may also develop on the face, wrists, and forearms.
If you scratch, your skin can get thick, dark, and scarred. Itchiness is usually worse at night when you go to bed.
Scratching can also lead to infection. You’ll notice red bumps that hurt and can be filled with pus. Be sure to see your doctor if this happens.
Other symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
Scaly, dry skin
Rash that bubbles up, then weeps clear fluid
Cracked skin that hurts and sometimes bleeds
Skin creasing on the palms of the hand or under the eye
Darkening of skin around the eyes
Diagnosis of Atopic Dermatitis
If your doctor thinks you may have atopic dermatitis, they’ll start by asking you about your medical history and do a physical exam.
They may also suggest a skin patch allergy test.
This kind of test can help you and your doctor figure out if your rashes are caused by an allergy to something you touch.
You wear skin patches that have small amounts of things you might be allergic to in them for a couple of days.
About 2 days after you take the patches off, your doctor will see if you have a rash around any of them.
Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis
Antihistamines to control itching, especially at night
Antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection
Drugs to suppress your immune system such as crisaborole (Eucrisa), a non-steroidal ointment that is used topically twice a day, and dupilumab (Dupixent), which is given as an injection every 2 weeks.
Injectable biologics: These newer medications are made from a kind of protein that helps your immune system fight off germs. They’re designed to slow down your immune system and ease the inflammation that leads to atopic dermatitis.
Other skin creams