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Atopic Dermatitis

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a skin disorder that usually appears in babies or very young children, and may last until the child reaches adolescence or adulthood. Eczema causes the skin to itch, turn red, and flake.

Parents with eczema are more likely to have children with eczema. Different triggers can make eczema worse, including environmental stress, allergies, and sweating. Of children who have eczema, most will show signs of eczema in the first year of life and 90 percent will show signs of eczema within the first 5 years.

Eczema occurs in approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of all infants. Of these children, nearly one half will improve as they grow and develop between the ages of five and 15 years. Other children may have some form of eczema throughout their lifetime.

What are the symptoms of eczema?

The distribution of eczema may change with age. In infants and young children, eczema is usually located on the face, outside of the elbows, and on the knees. In older children and adults, eczema tends to be on the hands and feet, the arms, and on the back of the knees. The following are the most common symptoms of eczema. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Excessive rubbing and scratching can tear the skin and result in an infection. Some children only have a few episodes of flare-ups, while other children will have atopic dermatitis throughout adulthood.

The symptoms of eczema may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is eczema diagnosed?

Atopic dermatitis is very common. Over 15 million American adults and children have atopic dermatitis. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates that at least 20 percent of infants and children experience symptoms of atopic dermatitis. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for eczema may include the following:

Treatment for eczema:

Specific treatment for eczema will be determined by your child's physician based on:

There is no cure for eczema. The goals of treatment are to reduce itching and inflammation of the skin, moisturize the skin, and prevent infection.

Management of eczema symptoms:

The following are suggestions for the management of eczema:

Your child's physician may also prescribe medications in severe cases. The following medications are most commonly used to treat eczema:

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