Eczema Atopic Dermatitis Cause and Diagnosis

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Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, and it is caused by an abnormal response to the body's immune system. The term "atopic" or "atopy" is used to describe a group of diseases that commonly occur together and run in families. These diseases are asthma, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and atopic dermatitis.

Atopic Dermatitis Facts

  • More than 15 million people in the United States have symptoms of atopic dermatitis
  • Atopic dermatitis occurs in 5 to 25 per 1000 people
  • Up to 15% of the population may suffer from atopic dermatitis during childhood
  • Males and females are affected equally
  • Atopic dermatitis accounts for 10% to 20% of referrals to dermatologists
  • Atopic dermatitis starts early in life - 9 out of 10 people with it develop symptoms before age 5
  • People who live in urban areas or low-humidity climates have a higher risk of atopic dermatitis


The cause of atopic dermatitis is hotly debated. Several factors play a role in the disease such as "leaky skin," abnormalities in several specific cells in the immune system, allergies, and higher sensitivity to chemicals and clothing. But so far the cause has not been narrowed to one particular factor.


The appearance of atopic dermatitis changes as a person gets older. The rash in an infant looks different than the rash in an adult. Some children seem to "grow out" of atopic dermatitis, but in reality, they always have sensitive skin that is drier than normal skin.


Atopic dermatitis is diagnosed based on several clinical factors that are divided into major and minor features. Skin-prick allergy tests are not used routinely to make the diagnosis because they are not as accurate in people with atopic dermatitis.


Atopic dermatitis is not cured but it can be managed. Fortunately, rashes can be prevented in many ways, and many medications can help.

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Article Sources

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