Atopic dermatitis (AD) is only one type of eczema and is common worldwide. AD is often called “the itch that rashes” because it begins with itchy skin. Scratching the itchy skin causes a rash to appear.
People of all ages from newborns to adults 65 years of age and older live with this condition. Symptoms range from excessively dry, itchy skin to painful, itchy rashes that cause sleepless nights and interfere with everyday life.
This is a complex disease. Researchers have discovered that the following likely play a role in causing atopic dermatitis (AD):
- Family history of AD, food allergies, asthma, or hay fever
- Immune system
- Where you live
- What you’re exposed to in everyday life, such as stress, pollution, and tobacco smoke
AD is common in children. As many as 25% of children in the United States may have AD. Most develop AD by their 5th birthday.
When a child has deeply pigmented skin, AD tends to be diagnosed later in life. Sometimes, the condition is missed altogether because it’s less noticeable. In brown or black skin, you tend to see gray to violet-brown skin discoloration rather than red rashes.
Many children who have AD see the condition disappear by the time they reach 12 years of age. AD can also be a lifelong condition. It’s estimated that 2% to 10% of adults have AD. Adults also develop AD, but this is less common, and although rare, it can even start after 60 years of age.
AD can make the skin very sensitive and very reactive. Things that you come into contact with every day can cause AD flare-ups. Anything that causes AD to flare is known as a trigger. Your dermatologist can help you figure out what triggers your AD, and help you manage them. If you suspect that you or your child may have AD, it’s important to get diagnosed. Treatment can prevent AD from worsening.
By partnering with a board-certified dermatologist, you can control AD. With control, it’s possible to relieve the extremely dry skin, alleviate the itch, and reduce flare-ups that lead to rashes. This condition cannot be cured, but proper treatment can control it. A treatment plan created by a board-certified dermatologist can help:
- Reduce flare-ups
- Ease symptoms, such as itch and pain
- Prevent AD from worsening
- Decrease your risk of developing thickened skin, which tends to itch all the time
- Keep your skin moist
- Lower your risk of infection
While a dermatologist tailors each AD treatment plan to a patient’s individual needs, most treatment plans a skincare plan that includes bathing, applying moisturizer, and being gentle with your skin. Your treatment plan may include medication that you apply to your skin, light treatments, medication that works throughout the body, or some combination of these. Most people can control AD with medication that they apply to their skin. When this is part of your treatment plan, you may apply one or more of the following:
Applying medication to your skin as directed can improve your skin’s ability to keep out germs and everyday substances that can irritate it. This means fewer flare-ups. The medication should also improve your skin’s ability to lock in moisture, so you’ll have fewer cracks and fissures. Sometimes, it takes trying a few different medications or light treatments to find the one that works best for you.
To get the best possible results from treatment, dermatologists also recommend making some lifestyle changes.