Is there any difference between
atopic dermatitis and atopic eczema?
No, they both mean the same. Other common names include infantile
eczema or childhood eczema.
How common is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is common and affects 3 - 10% of children.
In the UK, about 20% of children under the age of 7 are affected.
The incidence also seems to be increasing in urban societies
and it is not known whether this is due to an increase in environmental
pollution. About 1% of adults suffer from atopic dermatitis.
What causes atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is inherited. However, the inheritance is not
specific which means the person inherits a general tendency to
develop atopy rather than atopic dermatitis specifically. The
term, atopy refers to atopic dermatitis, asthma and allergic
rhinitis. This means that a child may inherit atopic dermatitis
from a parent with any one of the three atopic disorders and
not just atopic dermatitis. It also means that the child may
develop any one or more of the atopic disorders. This is why
people with atopic dermatitis often also suffer from asthma and/or
allergic rhinitis. About 70% of people with atopic dermatitis
have a personal or family history of atopy.
Does everyone who inherit
the atopic tendency always develop the disorder?
Not always because other factors (some unknown) - immunological,
psychological and environmental interplay to cause the disorder
to manifest. However, the tendency is always there so there is
always that possibility.
When does atopic dermatitis
Most cases appear during childhood which is why atopic dermatitis
is also called infantile and childhood eczema. About 60% of people
with atopic dermatitis develop it during the first year and 30%
during the second. However it rarely occurs before the age of
Will I ever grow out of atopic
Atopic dermatitis gets better with age and 50% can be considered
practically cured by the time they reach puberty. The remainder
also improve with the passage of time. Very occasionally, atopic
dermatitis persists into middle age.
- What makes atopic dermatitis
- Dust and the house dust mite.
- Physical irritants such as woollen
and rough textured fabrics.
- Chemical irritants including
soaps and detergents.
- Dryness of the skin caused by
the weather or soaps.
Is atopic dermatitis contagious?
Atopic dermatitis is not contagious unless there is secondary
infection. When this happens there is pus and crusting and it
is only during such times that the infection (not atopic dermatitis)
can be spread.
Does diet play an important
role in atopic dermatitis?
Food allergy may play a role in young children, especially those
under the age of 1 year. It is less important in adults and children
over the age of 4 years. The common culprits include dairy products,
beef, eggs, chicken, food additives, fish, wheat and nuts. Many
of these are nutritious and should only be excluded on the instruction
of the doctor.
Can I reduce the risk of my
child developing atopic dermatitis?
It is still not very clear whether breast feeding during the
first 6 months of life can reduce the risk of a genetically susceptible
child developing atopic dermatitis later on in life. Breast feeding
has other benefits as well and can certainly be attempted. However,
breast feeding must be complete and supplements cannot be used.
What is the treatment of atopic
The treatment consists of oral antihistamines (anti-itch medicines)
and topical steroids as well as eliminating or reducing the influence
of the aggravating factors above.
Go to atopic
dermatitis in Skin A to Z