Q: My dermatologist just diagnosed me with atopic dermatitis. Can you tell me more about it?
A: Atopic dermatitis is a long-term skin disease. “Atopic” refers to a tendency to develop allergy conditions. “Dermatitis” means swelling of the skin. The most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis are dry and itchy skin and rashes on the face, inside the elbows, behind the knees and on the hands and feet. Scratching the skin can cause redness, swelling, cracking, “weeping” (clear fluid), crusting, thick skin and scaling. Often, the skin gets worse (flares), then it improves or clears up (remissions).
Atopic dermatitis is most common in babies and children. But it can happen to anyone. People who live in cities and dry climates may be more likely to get this disease. When children with atopic dermatitis grow older, this problem can improve or go away. But the skin may stay dry and easy to irritate. At other times, atopic dermatitis is a problem in adulthood. You can’t “catch” the disease or give it to other people. Atopic dermatitis is often called eczema. “Eczema” is a term for many kinds of skin problems. Atopic dermatitis is the most common kind of eczema.