Atopic dermatitis is a chronic, non-contagious skin disease, commonly called eczema. Although a separate condition, atopic dermatitis is commonly found in patients with other conditions, such as allergic rhinitis and asthma. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by extreme itching and a recurrent rash that often weeps and crusts. If left untreated, it can become a scaly rash. It is estimated that atopic dermatitis affects up to 20% of children and up to 3% of adults. The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. Research suggests that atopic dermatitis and other allergic diseases can be hereditary. This means that you are more likely to have atopic dermatitis, food allergies, asthma, and/or allergic rhinitis if your parents or other family members have ever had atopic dermatitis. However, it is also known that genetics alone may not be enough to cause atopic dermatitis and it can be the combination of hereditary and environmental factors that lead to the development of the disease.
In infants and small children, the rash is often present on the cheeks and around the knees and elbows. In teenagers and adults, the rash is often present in the creases of the wrists, elbows, knees or ankles, and on the face or neck. Left untreated, atopic dermatitis may cause significant problems. The intense itching and uncontrollable scratching may interrupt sleep. At times, the itching can be so overwhelming that individuals may scratch until they bleed. The scratching can lead to skin infections, a scaly rash, and cause permanent changes to the skin, creating thick leathery patches.
Our physicians are experts at diagnosing and treating atopic dermatitis. How do you know if you should make an appointment to be evaluated for your itchy, dry skin? If you feel that your rash or itchy skin is getting worse
If you believe certain foods or environmental things are making your rash worse
If you are on medicine for your skin much of the time
If you have frequent skin infections
If you are unable to participate in daily activities
If your primary care physician refers you to an allergist for an evaluation