Atopic dermatitis is a long-term skin condition that begins with itchy, dry skin. Scratching the dry skin makes it inflamed and reddish and infection may occur. When infection is present, the skin may develop tiny, blister-like bumps that may ooze fluid or crust over. Over time, the recurring rash may toughen and thicken the skin.
Atopic dermatitis may be mild or severe. Mild atopic dermatitis covers only a small area of the skin. The area may be only slightly itchy and may be adequately addressed with the application of moisturizer. Severe atopic dermatitis covers a larger swath of the skin, is severely itchy and does not go away with mild skin creams.
Atopic dermatitis commonly appears on different parts of the body depending on a person’s age. Among babies, the rash often appears on the scalp, cheeks, and knee and elbow creases. In children, it commonly appears on the neck, wrists, legs, hands, arms and ankles. In both children and adults, the rash may appear in the creases of the elbows and knees.
Types of Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, may take the following forms:
- Allergic contact eczema – The allergy is triggered when the skin touches something that the immune system perceives to be a threat, such as poison ivy.
- Contact eczema – This occurs when the skin touches substances that can cause irritation, such as cleaner, acid and other harsh chemicals.
- Dyshidrotic eczema – This condition develops when the skin of the palms and soles gets irritated followed by the appearance of itchy and burning deep blisters.
- Neurodermatitis – Mostly caused by insect bites, this reaction results in scaly patches on the extremities.
- Nummular eczema – This type of eczema is identified by coin-shaped irritations on the skin, with the spots getting crusted, scaly and severely itchy.
- Seborrheic eczema – The skin on the face or scalp becomes yellowish, scaly patchy and oily.
- Stasis dermatitis – This irritation on the lower legs is caused by blood flow problems.
Atopic dermatitis is heavily influenced by environmental factors and genetics. People who have asthma and hay fever often have eczema.
Atopic dermatitis can be remedied by a treatment plan based on symptoms, age and general health. The main treatment goal is to heal the skin and prevent future flares. Your doctor can help you develop a good personal skin care regimen, identify factors that cause flare-ups and treat symptoms as they occur.
If your eczema is allergy-related, consult your allergy doctor. He or she may be able to recommend allergy treatment using allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy allergy drops, which are taken under the tongue. The advantage of allergy immunotherapy is that it can treat the underlying source of allergy-related eczema—not just its symptoms. This can lead to a lasting solution rather than just temporary relief.