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Atopic dermatitis or eczema

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that develops in persons with a genetic predisposition for allergies. It is long-term (chronic) skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes and remissions of variable length. It is also called eczema.

Atopic dermatitis is most common in babies and children. But it can happen to anyone. When children with atopic dermatitis grow older, this problem can improve or go away. At other times, atopic dermatitis is a problem in adulthood.


The most common symptom is itching, which can be very intense. The typical lesion is the eczema which consists of one or multiple areas of redness, blisters and scaly skin.

There are three phases of atopic dermatitis depending on the age of the onset:

  • In newborns and infants: recurrent lesions principally on the face
  • In children older than age 2: the rash is more often seen on the inside of the knees and elbow. It can also appear on the neck, hands, and feet.
  • In older children (post-puberty) and adults: thickening of the skin predominantly on the neck, wrists and feet


Nonetheless, the rashes are very variable and can appear on any part of the body.


Prevention of atopic dermatitis is somewhat difficult; however, the symptoms can be treated when they appear or even prevented.

The following important aspects to keep in mind that aid in preventing the eczemas are:

  • Wool or manmade fibers; soaps and cleaner; some perfumes and makeup; substances such as chlorine (in swimming pools), mineral oil, or solvents; dust or sand; cigarette smoke.
  • Allergens such as eggs, peanuts, milk, fish, soy products, and wheat; dust mites; mold; pollen; dog or cat dander
  • Other things that can lead to flares are: Not using enough lubricants after a bath; long or hot baths and showers; low humidity in winter; dry year-round climate; bacterial infections.
  • Stress, anger, and frustration can make atopic dermatitis worse, but they haven’t been shown to cause it.


A potentially effective prevention measure is breastfeeding the baby the first six months and avoiding cow milk protein. This will reduce the frequency and severity of atopic dermatitis in babies.

A patient with atopic dermatitis can prevent future flare-ups with simple secondary prevention methods. It is important to recognize and avoid the factors that can trigger a flare-up. Use lubricating creams, lotions, or ointments that are calcineurin-inhibitors as soon as symptoms of atopic dermatitis are noticed in order to reduce the severity of the disease.

Possible triggering factors can include diverse allergens such as pollen or dust mites; skin stimulants such as wool or sweat; certain foods such as nuts, milk and wheat; infections; climate (extreme cold or heat); tobacco smoke can trigger dermatitis flare-ups and should be avoided, especially at home.

Gene or region studied

  • 11q13.5
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