Atopic Dermatitis Treatments
Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema, a chronic condition that causes the skin to become itchy and scaly. Although there is no cure for the annoying skin condition, your dermatologist can provide you with treatment medications that can lessen your symptoms and make your flare-ups more comfortable.
Eczema affects people of all ages and all skin types. Most people develop the condition before their fifth birthday; adult onset atopic dermatitis is uncommon. Research indicates that the condition is much more common today than it was a few decades ago, but the cause of that trend is unclear. They have determined that children are more likely to develop the condition if there is a family history of the disease or if the child or family members have asthma, hay fever or other allergic condition.
Atopic dermatitis is also more likely to affect people living in colder climates and those living in developed countries and urban areas where there are high levels of pollution. Outbreaks may look unattractive, but the disorder is not contagious - you cannot "catch" the disease from another person.
Signs and Symptoms
Atopic dermatitis has different signs and symptoms, depending on the age when it's acquired.
Onset in infancy:
- Sudden rash
- Dry, scaly skin
- Most prevalent on scalp and face, but can appear on other areas of the body
- Blisters that ooze and weep
- Itching that often causes trouble sleeping and may result in skin infections from scratching
- Rarely occurs in diaper area
Onset in childhood:
- Rash typically occurs on knees or elbows as well as neck, ankle and wrists, or the crease between the buttocks and upper thigh
- Scaly, itchy patches
- Over time, may develop small bumps and affected skin may become thickened and leathery (a condition known as lichenification)
- In response to constant scratching, thickened skin may itch continually
Onset in adulthood:
- Appears in body creases
- May cover most of the body, and often is worse around the eyes
- Affected skin is dry, itchy and very scaly
- Skin may become darker, thicker and itch continually
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis begins with a physical exam and a medical history, including your family history to determine if any relatives have atopic dermatitis, asthma, hay fever or other allergies. In some cases, an allergy patch test may be performed. In this test, small amounts of different allergens are placed on the skin to watch for reaction.
There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, but there are products you can use to help control it so that it does not become worse. Many of these products are aimed at relieving symptoms like pain and itch, soothing irritated skin, preventing infections and preventing the skin from thickening. In addition to medications, your doctor may discuss skin care routines and lifestyle changes to help prevent flare-ups.
Outcomes and Follow-up
In infants and children with atopic dermatitis, the good news is the disease often becomes better with age, sometimes completely resolving during childhood or adulthood. In fact, only about half of children with atopic dermatitis will continue to have the condition as adults. Getting treatment early is the key to having the best outcome later in life.